'Highly inappropriate': Premier, health minister decline Sask. NDP's request to tour ICUs
One doctor says a minister on the front lines 'is someone I'll follow to hell and back'
Saskatchewan's premier and health minister say it would be inappropriate for them to tour intensive care units in Regina hospitals after the Opposition requested they witness first-hand the pressures health-care workers are facing in treating a surge of patients infected with COVID-19.
Late last week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it was doubling up COVID-19 patients in rooms and adding more beds as Regina ICUs exceeded their initial capacity.
On Monday in the legislative assembly, Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili invited Premier Scott Moe to don some personal protective equipment so they could "tour our struggling ICUs together."
Meili, who has been inside an ICU for personal reasons, said health-care workers feel frustrated and unheard by the government.
"It's easy to make decisions from an ivory tower when you have no idea what's happening on the front lines," Meili said.
Moe said it would not be appropriate to visit at this time, but acknowledged health-care workers across the province are working "extremely hard."
"Our hospitalization numbers are higher, yes, than we'd like to see. That is why we have put in place significant measures across the province," Moe said.
'Please visit,' says doctor
Later, at a scrum with reporters, Health Minister Paul Merriman echoed Moe in saying such visits would be inappropriate, especially in light of the sacrifices others have made during the pandemic.
Families have been restricted from visiting loved ones in hospital, perhaps even shortly before some patients' deaths, Merriman said.
"There are pressures in the ICUs, certainly in Regina," he said. I don't think they should be stopping their day to day business to be able to tour people through."
Minister of Health Paul Merriman on touring ICUs in Regina: <br><br>"This isn't something politicians should be wandering through at this point in time."<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/covid19sk?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#covid19sk</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/skpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#skpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yqr?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yqr</a> <a href="https://t.co/boaBuXyhsL">pic.twitter.com/boaBuXyhsL</a>—@MickeyDjuric
Visits may be appropriate "once the pandemic is over," Merriman added.
One physician, Dr. Alex Wong, said he was disappointed with Merriman's response.
"Our health minister sets policy that we follow as health-care workers," Wong wrote on Twitter. "A leader on the front lines who shows empathy and compassion and validates experiences of patients, families and workers is someone I'll follow to hell and back.
During his own scrum, Moe said he's not aware of any other Canadian politician who has visited an ICU during the pandemic.
"As long as our response to this pandemic is in place, you're not going to see this politician in there," Moe said.
Moe added Merriman is well briefed about the situation in meetings with the health authority.
with files from Adam Hunter