Saskatchewan announces plan to address crowding in Regina hospitals

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says it’s taking steps to deal with overcrowding in Regina’s hospitals days after breaking the fire code for having patients in beds in hallways. 

The authority announced Thursday it will work to add more staff and discharge patients in a timely manner to free up space. 

It said a rise in seasonal respiratory viruses and an increase in complex needs have added to pressures in the hospital system. 

The plan includes adding more resources for palliative home care to help prevent people from having to go to emergency rooms. 

The authority is to also add four more high-acuity beds at the Regina General Hospital in the next 90 days. 

“I know it’s challenging out there and we’re working really hard through this plan,” Sheila Anderson, the health authority’s vice-president of integrated Regina health, told reporters Thursday.

The announcement comes after the General and Pasqua hospitals in Regina broke the fire code. In November, a hospital in Saskatoon also broke the fire code for the same reason. 

Anderson said the plan will help eliminate the need for keeping patients in hallways. 

“Our goal is to have zero patients who are temporarily placed in hallways,” she said.

Anderson said staff met with the fire inspector and is working with the department to ensure equipment is not in hallways. 

In leaked email correspondence shared by the Opposition NDP on Wednesday, emergency medical services director Glen Perchie told staff it may direct paramedics to keep patients in ambulances if no other suitable options are found.

Derek Miller, the health authority’s chief operating officer, told reporters it’s working through some of the details with paramedics over what actions it might take. 

“We are very committed to collaborating with the fire department, as we always have to ensure that we’re providing a safe environment within our facilities,” Miller said.

This year, the health authority added two ambulances in Regina that are staffed at all hours, he added.

Miller said it has also added 28 medicine beds this year at the Pasqua Hospital and six hospice beds at Wascana Rehab Centre.

Anderson said the health authority has been able to hire more people to help with pressures. Saskatchewan has been short staffed over the past few years. 

“I’m confident that we’ll continue to recruit as we post these positions and get these programs either expanded or in place,” she said. 

She said the authority is to increase community supports for those with chronic diseases so they can avoid having to go to the emergency department.

A new urgent care facility is also expected to open in Regina next year, which Anderson said should add more capacity to the system. 

In November, the health authority announced a similar action plan to address pressures in Saskatoon.

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