The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is expanding capacity to meet demand for future phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is one part of the SHA’s overall strategy to contain, delay and mitigate COVID-19.
“Based on what we know from other jurisdictions, it is critical we act immediately to expand acute care capacity to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said. “Demand will exceed capacity. All jurisdictions are facing this challenge. We are not alone. We are acting immediately to ensure Saskatchewan residents get the care they need from the right provider, at the right time, with the right supports in place.”
Modelling from other jurisdictions suggests that this virus may affect 30 per cent of the population and result in thousands needing hospitalization. This modelling is being updated to ensure it is more specific to the situation in Saskatchewan.
“Under any scenario, it is critical that we continue to act to escalate our tactics to meet the potential demand,” Livingstone said. “That is why we are stepping up actions on an ongoing basis to do our part in ensuring the safety of Saskatchewan people.”
The SHA has already initiated measures to ensure this demand is met. A slowdown of non-essential services to increase bed availability, preserve supplies and support a labour pool for reallocation is already underway.
SHA leadership is activating plans to create additional capacity through:
• Creation of dedicated spaces to cohort COVID-19 patients within facilities.
• Creation of COVID-19 designated hospitals in Saskatoon and Regina and other areas of the province, where required.
• Creation of additional community based acute care capacity where required (e.g. field hospitals in school gyms, community centres, rinks, etc.).
“This plan will ensure we are prepared,” Livingstone said. “But it won’t be enough; it has been proven over and over with this virus that no health system in the world can address this challenge alone without the sustained help of the general public.”
Actions that people and communities must take to address this challenge include:
• Practicing good hygiene, washing hands regularly and practicing social distancing (two meters apart wherever possible);
• Abide by provincial and local travel, self-isolation, event and gathering restrictions;
• Use medical supplies effectively and efficiently so that they are there when needed;
• Avoid visiting our hospitals and long-term care facilities unless there are compassionate reasons for doing so.
A provincial Emergency Operations Centre has been established, as well as Integrated Health Incident Command Centres (IHICCs) for each of the SHA service areas (Saskatoon, Regina, Rural and North).
It is these local IHICC’s that will be accountable for finalizing and deploying the continuity of services and surge capacity plans on a local level. Changes to services and service locations are already occurring and will be ongoing as we adapt to the increased capacity it will take for the health system to effectively manage the weeks and months ahead. Communities will be updated as changes occur in their areas.
“We strongly urge every resident in Saskatchewan to abide by the restrictions, guidelines and orders enacted by the Government of Saskatchewan, and help our province slow the rate of transmission of this virus,” SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said. “The success of preventive measures will have a direct impact on health system demand for hospital care. The actions of the public will help save lives and ensure our health system is there for when you need it, regardless of the circumstance.”