As Regina ICU swells with COVID-19 cases, younger people are taking up more beds

The youngest patient being treated for COVID-19 in the Regina General Hospital's ICU is a 29-year-old. Officials say variants of concern are to blame.

Regina General Hospital ICU is operating at about 115 per cent occupancy

Dr. Jeff Betcher is imploring Regina residents to stay vigilant and follow health orders, even afer being vaccinated. (Chaikom/Shutterstock)

The critical care lead for the Regina area says that Saskatchewanians need to pay attention to the state of COVID-19 in the province.

"This is real and we need to abide by the health orders and what the government has said to us," Dr. Jeff Betcher told CBC's The Morning Edition on Monday.

The warning comes as the intensive care unit (ICU) at the Regina General Hospital is operating beyond capacity. 

Betcher said 17 of the 20 beds normally in the ICU currently have patients with COVID-19. An additional 10 surge beds have been brought in to expand the capacity and all are carrying COVID-19 patients. 

"We're at about 115 per cent occupancy right now," Betcher said. 

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On a normal day, the ICU may be at anywhere from 75 to 100 per cent occupancy, Betcher said. 

"The thing with the COVID patients is that they're unlike a lot of other patients, in that when they come into the ICU, they're not in for two or three days or four days even... their average length of stay is extending into weeks," said Betcher. 

Unlike the beginning of the pandemic, when ICU patients suffering from COVID-19 were generally older, there has been a shift to younger people. 

Last week, health officials said that of the 10 people most recently admitted to the ICU in Regina at that time, five had been younger than 40.

Betcher said that as of Monday, the youngest COVID-19 patient in the Regina General Hospital's ICU was 29 and the oldest was 76. 

They're all going above and beyond.- Dr. Jeff Betcher, critical care lead for Regina area, on his colleagues

Officials point to COVID-19 variants of concern in Regina as the source of the growing number of ICU cases, especially among youth. 

Betcher said the experience has left many of his colleagues, including nurses and other support staff, drained. 

The hospital has had to call back nurses who have recently left the ICU in order to help with the load. Specialists have also been called in to assist. 

"They're all going above and beyond," said Betcher.

The stress is even further compounded for health-care workers who have not had time off to rest and recuperate. 

"It's taking its toll and I think the we'll really know the toll it takes when this is all over and we have to make up for what we haven't been able to do over the last couple of weeks," Betcher said.

He's asking residents to abide by the health restrictions and to take proper precautions such as washing their hands and minimizing contacts.

He said it's important to get vaccinated as soon as possible, but to still abide by the restrictions even once vaccinated. 

"The sooner that we can put this all behind us, the better we'll all be, I think," he said.

With files from CBC's The Morning Edition


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