Sask.'s new COVID-19 surge plan forecasts up to 560 new cases a day by mid-December
'The pressures on our system are intense,' Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO says
The latest hospital readiness plan from Saskatchewan health officials says the province needs another 250 beds, plus another 64 spaces for people requiring intensive care, to handle the surge in COVID-19 cases expected in the next two weeks.
Hospitals and contact tracing in particular need more people, Derek Miller, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's emergency operations centre lead, said during a news conference Thursday.
"The pressures on our system are intense," added the authority's CEO, Scott Livingstone. "We are pushing things to the limit."
To put the numbers in context, 250 beds is roughly equal to how many patients Cypress Regional Hospital in Swift Current and Prince Albert Victoria Hospital can take today, combined.
Doubling of new cases predicted
The updated surge plan contemplates as many as 560 new cases of COVID-19 a day in the province by Dec. 15. On Thursday, 259 new cases were announced, just below the rolling seven-day average of 269.
Twenty-four people were under intensive care as of Thursday. The projection for future ICU patients in the surge plan is more than double that.
Service slowdowns in areas such as surgeries are needed to create more capacity in the hospital system, though the clampdown on services will not be as severe as it was last spring, Miller said.
Up to 600 full-time health care workers will need to be moved around, according to the plan, which also calls for a pool of up to 60 health care workers spread across six regions who could be deployed to particular outbreaks.
Livingstone said 600 new full-time health workers have already been added to the system in the last several months but that more are needed to handle the expected surge.
The plan will be reassessed every week, based on need.
Livingstone said whether the surge ever manifests depends on individual people and the degree to which they follow public health guidelines.
"They hold the ultimate control of that dimmer switch," Livingstone said. "We will light up all of our services again when Saskatchewan residents help us make it safe to do so."
At this point, the health authority is not opening field hospitals considered in its original plan last spring, Livingstone said, but it is preparing teams should those hospitals be needed.
Absence of families in hospitals keenly felt: doctor
Dr. Susan Shaw, the chief medical officer for the SHA and a practising doctor in Saskatoon, was asked about what it's like in hospitals right now.
"I really miss the family presence at the bedside," she said. "The patients really benefit from that. The fact that we can't do that to keep people safe, it's hard on staff and it's heartbreaking for our families."
The health authority suspended family visits in all health facilities in mid-November to help curb the spread of the virus.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said Thursday he's still hopeful people might be allowed to visit loved ones in long-term care homes at Christmas, but that a final decision won't be made until Dec. 17.
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