Saskatchewan

Regina nurse says premier, health minister need to see first-hand how COVID-19 is affecting ICUs

Whitney Walker-Ross, a surgical intensive care nurse at Regina General Hospital, is calling on Premier Scott Moe to see an ICU. She also wishes she could show the public, including protesters who were outside the building Tuesday and Wednesday while people with COVID-19 died inside.

Whitney Walker-Ross says patients died this week as people protested outside Regina General Hospital

Whitney Walker-Ross is an ICU nurse at Regina General Hospital. (Submitted by Whitney Walker-Ross)

An intensive-care nurse in Regina is seeing first-hand how COVID-19 is pushing an ICU to the brink — and she wants others to see it as well.

Whitney Walker-Ross, a surgical intensive care nurse at Regina General Hospital (RGH), is calling on Premier Scott Moe and Health Minister Paul Merriman to see an ICU for themselves. She also wishes she could show the public, including protesters who were outside of the hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday while people died in the ICU.

"This is real. This is not a hoax. People need to wake up and realize we are actually having a problem," said Walker-Ross.

On Friday, the province reported a record-high 52 people were in intensive care because of the virus, including 35 in Regina.

Walker-Ross said a first-hand experience would help people understand the human toll of COVID-19

"The public and politicians, they see the number of cases. But as front-line workers — especially in the ICU — we are seeing the faces of the number of the cases, so it's a completely different perspective," she said.

Provincial Opposition Leader Ryan Meili urged Moe to visit an ICU this week, but both he and Merriman said it would be inappropriate.

Walker-Ross said staff are constantly doing hands-on work with patients who are on life support, like preparing their IV medication, cleaning them, monitoring them and manually turning them to prevent rashes — a task that can take half a dozen people.

They are also putting two patients in one room, which is uncommon,

"It seems like we're just doing everything we can to accommodate these very sick people," she said. "I'm pretty sure that we're all just burnt out."

Official Opposition leader Ryan Meili says Saskatchewan's premier should visit the local ICU - but the premier says that would be inappropriate in the midst of a pandemic. That response prompted one Regina ICU nurse to pen a Facebook post about why she would encourage Premier Moe to see what she and others are facing. 10:15

She also has to call family members to tell them how their loved one is doing.

"One of the hardest questions to answer for families is, 'Are they going to get better? How long is it going to take for them to get better?' Because typically we don't know," she said.

Patients die in ICU during hospital protest

Earlier in the week, a small group of protesters gathered outside of Regina General Hospital.

It was the same group of people that has frequently protested a range of COVID-19 pandemic responses outside the legislature and immunization centre in Regina.

Walker-Ross said several patients died in the ICU while the group was protesting outside of the hospital.

"Even if they were to find out in that exact moment during that protest, I know that they would not have any remorse," she said.

"Refusing to wear masks already speaks volumes of selfishness."

At one point a message was written on a sidewalk outside of the hospital that said, "SHA [Saskatchewan Health Authority] serial killers."

"That hate message… could not be more of a slap in the face to all the people that are working so hard and busting their butts off trying to provide patient care and to save them," she said.

Walker-Ross said the protesters need to humble themselves.

The message has since been scrubbed off and replaced with messages of encouragement:

'"We are with you, we care." 

"We need you." 

"Don't lose hope."

With files from The Morning Edition, Laura Sciarpelletti

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