Omicron surge may have plateaued but hospitals caring for highest number of COVID patients, Sask. doctors told

The Omicron surge in Saskatchewan may have plateaued or slowed but the health system is still floundering, according to a presentation at a Saskatchewan Health Authority physician town hall on Thursday.

Record-tying 384 patients in hospital as of Wednesday

A nurse tends to a patient in intensive care at a Toronto hospital in an April 2021 file photo. In Saskatchewan, hospitals are now caring for the highest number of people with COVID- 19 and hospital admissions are at the highest levels across all age groups, according to a presentation at a physician town hall on Thursday. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The surge of COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron coronavirus variant in Saskatchewan may have plateaued or slowed, but the health system is still floundering, physicians heard at a town hall on Thursday.

The presentation delivered at the Saskatchewan Health Authority town hall noted that hospitals are now caring for the highest number of people with COVID-19 seen during the pandemic.

Hospital admissions are at the highest levels across all age groups and intensive care unit occupancy continues to be high, the physicians heard.

With cases at the highest levels to date across Saskatchewan, the non-ICU hospital system is at capacity, the presentation says.

It also says hospital staffing remains "critical" due to unplanned absenteeism of workers infected with COVID-19 and self-isolating. 

A slide from the Saskatchewan Health Authority presentation on Thursday. (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Dr. Carla Holinaty, a family physician in Saskatoon, says the town hall confirmed what health-care workers already knew: hospitalization numbers remain high and resources are stretched very thin.

"I really hope people can continue doing those easy, simple measures to protect each other, at least until we've got a little bit more capacity within our system to deal with people when they get sick," Holinaty said in a Friday interview with CBC.

"We still want there to be capacity for anybody that needs hospitals to be able to get there in a timely way. We still want to be able to do surgeries on a timeline that makes sense for people."

Lack of up-to-date information

Saskatchewan's first weekly COVID-19 update — delivered Thursday, after the province moved away from daily online updates — showed a record-tying 384 patients in hospital. 

That number matches the reported caseload on Feb. 3, which was the same day the province said it would stop providing daily COVID updates.

But most of the weekly data provided Thursday covers the period from Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, meaning that information was already available to the public in the daily dashboard. 

The province hasn't provided any information about reported COVID-19 deaths since the weekend.

Dr. Holinaty says the lack of access to up-to-date information makes it difficult for people to assess risk and decide what they feel comfortable with, as the government shifts to a "living with COVID" approach. 

"The amount of lag that we have between when we get that information and the dates that it's reporting on is significant," she said.

"It's really hard to be able to make those decisions because things change quickly."

Dr. Holinaty says although all of Saskatchewan's health measures will be gone by the end of the month, she doesn't believe the province is at the point where it can safely relax restrictions.

See the slides shown at the town hall here: Mobile users: View the document
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Yasmine Ghania is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan, currently based in Saskatoon.


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