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SHA addressing staffing shortages, COVID surge across province in update

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is providing an update on escalating efforts to fight COVID-19 outbreaks, and also some surgical slowdowns.

The update, provided on December 17th, says that while ICU admissions and hospitalizations have been lower than the forecasted number, the SHA notes that there has been a high volume of outbreaks threatening the continuity of care for patients and care home residents in need, straining resources. As such they’ve been making changes to staffing levels, as well as slowing down services were possible.

Staff redeployment continue, other means of closing gaps looked at

They say they have been combating this by diverting care from hospitals when possible and providing care in place in these homes instead, but this also requires more staff to be diverted to provide care in these instances.

Health officials note that this has been a bigger draw on SHA resources than anticipated in surge plans, especially when it comes to supporting third-party providers. So far, 117 health care workers have been reassigned thus far for this purpose, and more still to outbreak settings.

They’re also looking at more staff they can move around for these purposes until the situation begins to deescalate, and while all staff flagged for re-deployment are still working, processes are in place if they need to be quickly reassigned.

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The SHA also notes they’ll be taking other steps to “proactively identify gaps and strengthen its ability to respond:”

  • Continuing to identify sites of high risk and perform Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and safety inspections;
  • Providing more IPAC and safety resources where there are outbreaks;
  • Continuing to review and identify facilities that may have poor ventilation and mitigate risks;
  • Identifying resource needs and redeployments required to support vaccine rollout to key sites with vulnerable residents/patients; and,
  • Expanding point of care testing to facilitate early detection and rapid response to outbreak situations.

200 services approved for a strategic slowdown, over 900 being looked at

Another way the SHA says they’re looking to have the staff to redeploy when necessary is certain medical slowdowns. While 900 services are being tracked by health officials, 200 have been approved. However, the SHA says these will remain at normal volumes until “appropriate opportunities are identified for redeployment to the pandemic response.”

In major centres, there’s been a reduction in surgical volumes, including in North Battleford and Prince Albert who have seen a temporary, localized disruption to all elective surgeries.

There has also been a temporary, localized 35 per cent reduction in surgical volumes in Saskatoon and Regina, except for third party surgical providers in these cities, who are not impacted.

In all of these sites, urgent or emergent and cancer surgeries are prioritized and continue, and outside of them, elective surgeries and endoscopy procedures are continuing at relatively normal volumes at facilities that can do them.

Since the surge plans original announcement on December 3rd, there has been an increase of staff assigned to the labour pool of 377, accounting for 64 per cent of the target set for this work, the SHA says.

Now is not the time to relax COVID prevention, Livingstone says

“The key now is not to let our foot off the gas,” said Scott Livi​​​ngstone, CEO of SHA. “People may be encouraged by the vaccine rollout, as they should be, but the reality is that fatalities and hospitalizations lag behind high case counts, meaning its critical we still prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We still need the public to help us protect those who are vulnerable and protect our health system from being overwhelmed.”

They say people should continue all healthy habits and following public health orders, such as physical distancing, washing hands frequently, wearing a mask whenever indoors and staying home whenever sick.

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