Saskatoon·Video

More military aid coming to Sask. amid 4th wave of COVID-19

Four non-ICU nurses and four medical technicians will follow on the heels of six ICU nurses, according to the Canadian Armed Forces.

4 non-ICU nurses, 4 medical technicians to follow on heels of 6 ICU nurses

Patient transferred onto military plane in Saskatchewan

3 months ago
Duration 0:57
A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence says the Canadian Armed Forces will provide "aeromedical transport for in-province and out of province critical care patient transfers." 0:57

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is sending more people to help Saskatchewan deal with its fourth wave of COVID-19.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Federal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair announced on Twitter that the military would be deployed to Saskatchewan to help overburdened hospitals deal with an unusually large number of ICU patients. Blair said Ottawa had approved a request for federal assistance from the province. 

Saskatchewan had previously announced that some COVID-19 patients needing intensive care were being transferred to Ontario in order to make room for other patients and that more information was expected soon about having more "boots on the ground."

Over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence confirmed that in addition to sending six critical care nurses to work in Saskatchewan ICUs, the military would also help transfer patients out of the province.

On Tuesday, a RCAF CC-130J Hercules airplane could be seen parked on the tarmac at the Saskatoon airport as paramedics and workers in military uniform moved a patient out of an ambulance and onto the plane. 

That patient was flown to Kingston, Ont., said Bonnie Wilken, a public affairs officer for the armed forces' Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC). 

The Department of National Defence spokesperson said on the weekend that, "dependent upon capacity," the CAF would also provide two "multipurpose medical assistance" teams to backfill Saskatchewan Health Authority nurses deployed to ICUs "and support pressure on acute care (non-ICU) in the province."

Asked for clarification about the status of those teams on Wednesday, Wilken said four general duty nursing officers and four medical technicians are also being deployed to Saskatchewan and are due to arrive later this week. Those people will be devoted to non-ICU care. 

Nothing about those additional resources was mentioned by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency during its last COVID-19 media briefing on Monday. 

The six critical care nurses, four general duty nurses and four medical technicians — plus a senior nursing officer — are all being sent to Regina General Hospital, Wilken said. 

The six critical care nurses are expected to start regular shift work on Thursday, she said. 

Province adding nurses too 

The military aid comes in addition to 480 Saskatchewan nurses working in ICUs, according to Premier Scott Moe. 

It also comes on top of efforts by the Saskatchewan Health Authority to quickly train 60 to 70 nurses for deployment to Saskatchewan ICUs, as well the recruitment of 32 contract nurses.

Saskatchewan usually has room for only 79 patients in its intensive care wards. As of Monday, Saskatchewan had a total of 116 ICU patients: 71 with COVID-19 and 45 without.

By Tuesday, after about a week of patient transfers, the number of ICU patients with COVID-19 had decreased to 69, down from 83 on Oct. 19.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa from Cornwall, Ontario

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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