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Sask. not planning daily ICU patient transfers after this weekend, said officials

Provincial officials say the relocation of some ICU patients and the addition of outside resources is helping Sask.'s overwhelmed health care staff.
sask ICU patient
A COVID-19 patient is cared for by members of the care team at an Intensive Care Unit in Sask.

REGINA — Saskatchewan is currently not planning to transfer any more critically ill COVID-19 patients to Ontario hospitals after the weekend, said officials.

An update from officials at the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre and Saskatchewan Health Authority on Oct. 29 said that the decision to slow transfers is due to a decrease in strain on critical care staff.

“We are seeing a reduction in our COVID patients, and we are seeing a reduction in the use of ICU beds,” said Pritchard.

A total of 22 Saskatchewan patients have already been relocated to Ontario in the last week, said  PEOC lead Marlo Pritchard. An expected six more patients will be transferred by Sunday.

Ontario had previously indicated that it could accommodate no more than 30 patients from Saskatchewan.

One patient was scheduled to return to Saskatchewan on Friday, following a reduction in care needs from ICU to a regular ward.

Pritchard said that daily transfers will be slowing down as of next week, with no plan past Sunday. Instead, the province is moving to a more intermittent schedule based on patient needs.

The criteria determining the need to transfer a patient, either out of province or back to province, are largely moving thresholds, determined by on-the-ground critical care teams.

As of Oct. 29, there are 238 individuals currently hospitalized, with 91 of those patients in ICU care. Fifty-four are categorized as COVID-19 ICU patients.

This places the province still over-capacity in terms of ICU care beds, but Pritchard said that current levels of staff and resources are meeting care standard needs.

“Demands for out-of-province transfers are looked at every day,” said Pritchard. “We will be monitoring [patient needs] throughout the weekend, and adjust if we have to.” 

Pritchard said that the delivery of federal resources — including six critical care nurses from the military deployed to the Regina General Hospital — has helped the health care system back onto its feet.

Federal nurses were deployed to Regina to aid both the ICU and a new COVID-specific ward on site, said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone, in an effort to relieve pressure on a tertiary health care centre.

“The decision was made to deploy to Regina because that’s where we’re seeing some of that pressure,” said Livingstone.

The decision was also made to avoid splitting up the cohort of incoming nurses and offer a bigger impact in support, he added.

Livingstone said that although pressure is decreasing on critical care areas of the system, the SHA still cannot say when service slowdowns, like surgeries, will be cleared to resume.

“Everything is dependent on what we see down the road, with COVID,” said Livingstone.

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