ESTEVAN - St. Joseph's Hospital's emergency room has been pretty busy lately with many people testing positive for COVID-19.
With Omicron already contributing to 95 per cent of all COVID cases in Saskatchewan some time ago, Cheryl Harrison, the nurse manager at St. Joseph's Hospital, said the province doesn't check for variants anymore and it's taken that almost everyone who tests positive for COVID has the later and more contagious version of the virus, which spreads even faster now. But the severity of the disease seems to go down.
"We are busier in our emergency department right now, because we've got more people coming in looking for testing and with any other signs and symptoms of COVID. So we start a little busier with that. But as far as admissions into the hospital, we see no change on that," Harrison said.
The symptoms are also less severe, and Harrison said that "as far as being very sick, we're not seeing that now."
With Omicron spread around the globe, just like the rest of the province and country, the Estevan area is also seeing more positive cases currently. But Harrison said they've been coping relatively well so far.
"We have certainly seen an uptick. And it's been very busy there," Harrison said.
She added that they've had a lot of staff off with COVID for some time, but fortunately, it's levelled off now, allowing them to keep up with the demand.
"We did see a little bit of an uptick with staff affecting them and their families and the community. And we have had an outbreak that we've dealt with to in our addiction centre," Harrison said.
While the omicron variant seems to be more contagious, the hospital didn't need to put any new safety protocols or measures in, since almost from the beginning of the pandemic, they were following pretty strict rules when it comes to COVID to protect the staff.
"The staff have always been masked and followed all the precautions that have been in place for months now," Harrison said.
The hospital provides rapid antigen COVID-19 tests free of charge 24/7. Kits are also available at the Estevan Fire Rescue Service and the Southern Plains Co-op in Estevan. Harrison said that those tests can be done when people are asymptomatic but might be worried about being a close contact or just want to check their condition. Besides, they will also work if people already have symptoms.
If someone tests positive for COVID-19 on the rapid test but is feeling relatively fine, Harrison said there is no need to come into the hospital. But if people develop some serious symptoms or need help from a doctor, they are welcome to come.
"There's no reason to come in unless you're very sick … If you have any kind of symptoms, you should be staying at home so that you're not contagious to other people. You should isolate at home and stay at home. Otherwise, if you're out and about you should mask and practise a two-metre distancing … But if anyone's feeling sick and would like to be seen, they're perfectly welcome to come. But otherwise, stay home and take care of yourself," Harrison said.
There is no need to update anyone at SHA about a positive test.
Everyone coming through hospital doors is screened for COVID symptoms, and if there is a potential that a person might be sick, they are escorted to an area that is set up for COVID positive people, so they can be checked out there.