Province says Sask. health services delayed by COVID-19 will start resuming next week

Saskatchewan's government has announced that health-care services delayed because of COVID-19 will start resuming next week.

50 per cent of services to resume next week, 75 week after and 90 by month’s end

The provincial government announced medical services delayed by COVID-19 will start resuming next week, starting with pediatric services. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Saskatchewan's government has announced that health-care services delayed because of COVID-19 will start resuming next week.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced in September that health services including elective procedures, organ transplants and cancer treatments were being put on hold so health-care workers could focus their efforts on combating record-breaking COVID-19 numbers.

Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman announced during question period on Wednesday that 50 per cent of delayed services will resume next week, then 75 per cent the following week, and 90 per cent by the end of the month.

Moe said the decision is due to increased vaccinations, along with decreasing case numbers and hospitalizations.

Merriman told reporters after question period that some health-care workers outside of intensive care units who were assigned to other tasks — such as contact tracing — will start returning to their original positions.

He said the initial focus will be on resuming pediatric and youth services.

Merriman emphasized that the pandemic isn't over, so the province will need to continue deploying health-care workers as needed.

11-month old faced delayed diagnoses, surgery, therapies

Graham Dickson and Laura Weins's 11-month old daughter, Helen — who is suspected to have cerebral palsy — was one of thousands of people affected by the delays.

She lost access to vital therapies, an opportunity to receive surgery, and diagnostic testing to confirm her illness.

"I can safely say for both of us and for our extended families, our biggest worry right now is how this might impact Helen for the rest of her life," Dickson said to reporters after question period.

"We know that early intervention is key, and every day that goes by we're missing the boat, we're missing the opportunity to get her to a place where she needs to be — whether it's going to be able to have proper vision to play sports, or even just to walk, and I worry every day how this delay is going to impact her. It's hard. It's very hard."

Merriman said he can relate to what the family is going through, as his daughter experienced a delay in medical services years before the pandemic started.

"It's very heartbreaking as a parent to be able to go through that," he told reporters.

Merriman said the decision to delay some medical procedures and services was challenging, but he "saw a health-care system that was being overwhelmed, mostly by people that were unvaccinated, and we had to act."

Merriman also said he would help the family as much as he could.

"I apologized that they're in this circumstance and I hope to get them out of it as soon as I possibly can."

Opposition Leader Ryan Meili, meanwhile, said the delays could have been prevented had the government listened to ongoing calls from medical experts and implemented measures earlier.

"We didn't need to wind up in a situation where we're shutting down health care again. We're in the fourth wave, not the first one, and we should demand from our leadership that they learn, that they get better as time goes on — and instead these guys actually got worse."

A mask mandate was reintroduced and a proof-of-vaccination policy was announced on Sept. 16, almost a week after the province confirmed there would be a halt on non-critical and elective medical services.


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