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Politicians react as Regina General ER goes on bypass

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses issues tweets declaring “Saskatchewan health care is a disaster” in wake of hospital ER pressures.
Health Minister Paul Merriman responds to reporters regarding pressures facing ERs right now in Regina and Saskatoon.

REGINA - News that Regina General Hospital’s emergency room was on bypass dominated the talk at the provincial legislature Tuesday.

Politicians were reacting to a series of tweets put out by the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, which pointed to a grim situation currently at Saskatchewan hospitals.

One of their posts on Twitter from Monday read: “Did you know the Regina General ER went on bypass to Pasqua this past Thursday? One of the most important ERs in #Sask!! That means only accepting traumas, strokes, paediatrics, labour & delivery, & heart attacks, with everyone else being diverted. We are in trouble. #skpoli”

Other posts Monday pointed to the situation at other hospitals elsewhere in the province.

“#Sask healthcare is a disaster. Anything to the contrary is inaccurate. RUH ER now: 100 patients waiting for care, 50+ admitted waiting for beds on the wards, patients in hallways on portable cardiac monitors with no supervision, short RNs this morning, again tonight. #skpoli

“This IS collapse. Patients don’t deserve this. They deserve care on a ward by a dedicated nurse, not the mayhem of the ER hallway. The chaos, the lights, the stress. Nurses are terrified, stressed to the point of illness. #skpoli”

When asked about the SUN Twitter posts by reporters at the Legislature Tuesday, Health Minister Paul Merriman responded “I think we are moving as fast as we possibly can,” pointing to their human resource strategy with efforts to bring in Filipino nurses and hire more doctors. 

He also acknowledged they had stepped up the security at Regina General and also at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon. 

“I have heard these concerns, I recognize they’re still there,” said Merriman. “We’re trying to get our human resource strategy in as fast as we possibly can.”

Merriman also acknowledged they were looking at bringing back retired physicians. He said they were doing a “multi-pronged approach.”

“Some people that have left the system have chose to come back because now instead of a .5 position they are able to get into a full time position which is what they wanted,” said Merriman. “We want everybody to be doing everything they possibly can to take the pressure off the system.”

Merriman also confirmed he had a conversation with Tracy Zambory of SUN on some proposals. He said they’re hearing about “a lot of stress from their union members” and they’re bringing things forward to alleviate that pressure. “We all agree that more people in the system is going to help with the pressure,” said Merriman.

Merriman added there is “not going to be one quick fix in a month that is going to alleviate the pressure. We had the pressures during the last two years because of COVID(-19) that got us here and it’s going to take us some time.”

Merriman also noted he had been at the SARM convention in Saskatoon that morning where they heard “some positive feedback from a lot of people out there in rural Saskatchewan that it’s not where they want it to be, but they see that things are starting to improve. So we got very good feedback out there.”

Regarding the Twitter posts, Merriman said he needed to verify the report of 100 people waiting for care in Saskatoon.

But he did say he knew of pressures in Regina and Saskatoon. Merriman said he’d been told by officials those pressures had lessened “certainly” in Regina. In Saskatoon they were still experiencing challenges but “we’re going to, if need be, bring in additional resources to help them.”

Opposition Leader Carla Beck said it was “deeply concerning when you have the largest hospital in the capital city on bypass.”

She noted the concerns expressed on social media and said “it was something we were raising the alarm about for years. Certainly we see nurses sharing those concerns.”

Beck added fact that Minister Merriman was now talking about consulting with SUN was “deeply concerning. This is something that should’ve been happening all along. We’ll wait to see results.

"But again, even their four-point plan that this government brought forward, even if they were completely successful with that plan, the provincial auditor has indicated that would still be 1000 healthcare workers short, which again is concerning both for those looking for care and for those who are working in healthcare right now who are often working short, working overtime and continue to tell us that they are feeling burnt out and they need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.”