Adult COVID-19 patients being treated in Sask. children's hospital, health authority says

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says pediatric ICU beds are being used to treat adults with COVID-19 because of a lack of capacity.

Saskatoon’s Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital has only pediatric ICU in province

The Saskatchewan Health Authority will present a surge capacity plan for hospitals as the province braces for a rise in hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant. (AHS)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says pediatric ICU beds are being used to treat adults with COVID-19 because of a lack of capacity.

"We are utilizing Jim Pattison Children's Hospital for adult patients (as appropriate) to support demand in Saskatoon," SHA spokesperson Doug Dahl wrote in an email to CBC News. "This is part of the work we do provincially to manage capacity and ensure appropriate level of care.

Jim Pattison Children's Hospital in Saskatoon has the only pediatric intensive care unit in the province. Two adults are currently being treated there, one of whom has COVID-19.

Saskatchewan hit a COVID-19 hospitalization record for the fourth day in a row on Wednesday, according to the province's online COVID-19 dashboard.

As of Tuesday, 262 people with COVID-19 are in hospital in the province, 54 of them in intensive care. 

Dr. Susan Shaw, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's chief medical officer and an ICU doctor, told CBC's Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning that early on in the pandemic, the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) team stepped forward and asked what they could do to help.

Shaw said many of the pediatric staff have experience treating adults, and that children who need care will continue to have access to the specialized team at the PICU.

"PICU doctors do complete some adult training within their fellowship or the subspecialty training," Shaw said. "The adult team is always providing backup as well, and there's conversations back and forth."

Shaw said some patients have had to move to other locations within the province to receive care and that it's a "possibility" that patients might have to be airlifted out of the province if capacity challenges worsen — similar to what's currently happening in Alberta.

Shaw also said the threat of having to triage patients — doctors having to decide which emergency cases would receive treatment — is always looming.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is planning to surge to 175 ICU beds, up from the normal number of 79 in order to care for a projected 125 ICU COVID patients. 

Lockdown should be considered: Doctors

Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious diseases doctor at Regina General Hospital, has called for a lockdown in the province. Shaw agreed that it's "certainly" a strategy that should be considered.

"Until we see the daily case rates fall, I think my job is to remain worried," she said.

LISTEN | Dr. Susan Shaw spoke with host Leisha Grebinski on Saskatoon Morning 
Leisha Grebinski talks with Dr. Susan Shaw, who works as an ICU doctor and serves as the chief medical officer for the Saskatchewan Health Association.


Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.

With files from CBC's Saskatoon Morning


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