Provincial NDP wants explanation regarding return of hallway medicine during COVID-19 surge

Members of the Saskatchewan NDP are voicing their concerns following reports of hallway medicine at the province’s facilities while there is an increase in COVID-19 cases.

On Tuesday, party leader Ryan Meili and health critic Vicki Mowat invited Angela McLean to recount her experience from last fall in a Regina hospital and share what her close friend underwent recently at the same centre. McLean spoke out last year after she was treated in a crowded hallway at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina for nearly a week.

However it’s her close friend’s encounter with hallway medicine that has members of the opposition party concerned.

When speaking to media on Tuesday, McLean said her friend, who is immunocompromised, became severely ill and sought treatment at the Pasqua Hospital. Her friend was indefinitely admitted to a hallway at the hospital due to a lack of available beds in the facility.

McLean said it wasn’t safe when she had to go through it in the fall and it’s definitely not safe now.

“Again, they didn’t have beds, they put her in the hallway and they left her in the hallway completely exposed where hallways aren’t designed to provide patient care, safety, dignity, privacy or anything,” stated McLean. “I’m appalled and quite concerned that this is happening again.”

McLean is now calling on Health Minister Jim Reiter to provide an explanation after he said in the fall that it was “unacceptable” and promised an investigation into the matter.

Meili followed up by saying the reopening of the healthcare system should not be the reopening of hallway medicine.

After hearing about McLean’s friend’s story, Meili said Minister Reiter is putting patients at real risk by having them in a hallway during a surge in COVID-19 cases.

“We’re talking to frontline physicians who are saying they are back in the same old situation and are well over 100 per cent capacity every day,” he noted. “We are also seeing the stories from multiple days of Saskatoon’s ICU having to redirect patients elsewhere.”

The NDP obtained a daily rounds memo dated on July 27 from the Saskatchewan Health Authority highlighting capacity issues in Saskatoon’s facilities. However Meili mentioned that capacity issues are also being echoed by staff across the province including Regina.

Safety of patients, staff and physicians is a priority

In a prepared response, the Saskatchewan Health Authority admitted it has seen increased pressure or inpatient capacity in hospitals around the province but noted that protocols are in place to provide care for both COVID-19 patients and non-COVID-19 patients.

“If the number of COVID-19 positive patients requiring hospitalization increases, the SHA has plans to meet that demand. The SHA’s pandemic response plan would be implemented when and where appropriate,” reads the statement.

“We are working through the capacity for planned critical care surges through day by day assessment of ventilator requirements and additional expansion of facilities within the province. Processes are in place to deal with aerosol generating medical procedures which would support safety for staff and others (eg: negative pressure rooms).”

The SHA added that field hospitals in both Saskatoon and Regina are nearly complete. Once a trigger point in COVID-19 cases has been reached requiring hospitals, the final stage of preparation will begin.

The health authority expects a period of two to three weeks to operationalize the field hospitals.

“Field hospitals will be equipped to provide routine care for COVID-19 positive adult inpatients, sometimes called ‘medicine beds’ and will include regular monitoring by care teams, in the same way that a traditional hospital cares for patients,” continues the statement from the SHA.

“Field hospital services will include lab, pharmacy, diagnostic imaging, respiratory nutrition and food, environmental services, patient registration and supply chain. Field hospitals will not perform specialty services like surgeries, labour and delivery, pediatric services or intensive care.”

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