Saskatoon

Doctors call Sask. government's COVID-19 plan timid, disappointing

Some doctors are calling the Saskatchewan government's new COVID-19 plan underwhelming, timid and disappointing.

'I believe these measures are substantial,' says Premier Scott Moe

Saskatoon pediatrician Dr. Ayisha Kurji says the new COVID-19 restrictions announced Wednesday don't go far enough. (Don Somers/CBC)

Some doctors are calling the Saskatchewan government's new COVID-19 plan underwhelming, timid and disappointing.

They say the new measures are unlikely to control the spread of the virus and worry hospitals — especially intensive care units — could soon be overwhelmed.

"It's disappointing. My worry is if we continue, we'll see what's happening in Alberta, we'll see what's happening in Manitoba, where the health-care system can't cope," Saskatoon pediatrician Dr. Ayisha Kurji said.

Kurji is one of more than 400 doctors from all specialties across the province that signed two open letters more than two weeks ago predicting the rapid case growth and calling for swift, decisive action.

On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab announced new restrictions. They include cancelling sports competition and further limiting gathering sizes for sports practices, restaurant meals, weddings and other activities. Night clubs, worship services, bingo halls, casinos and other locations will be allowed to continue operating, but under reduced capacity.

"I believe these measures are substantial. They are by no means half-measures," Moe said.

Doctors including Kurji and health policy consultant Dr. Dennis Kendel disagree.

"They were certainly more timid than I would have expected," Kendel said. "I would have expected somewhat more aggressive interventions."

Kendel said he was surprised casinos, bingo halls and other non-essential services were not ordered to close temporarily.

"The premier is so adamant he will not engage in any shutdown. That word is just toxic to him. But at some point, activities that are absolutely non-essential should give way to optimize our health and prevent unnecessary spread of the virus," Kendel said.

Dr. Dennis Kendel called the new restrictions 'more timid than I would have expected.' (Trent Peppler/CBC)

Kendel said there should be specific, public declarations about how many cases or hospitalizations would trigger further restrictions. The question was asked during the news conference Wednesday, but Kendel said it was not answered.

"We just didn't get that, and that was disappointing," he said.

Kendel and others also want more enforcement of the rules with fines or other measures, rather than expecting business owners and employees to deal with violators.

Kurji would also like to see increased contact tracing efforts, as good decisions can only be made with good data, she said.

Saskatoon neurologist Dr. Paul Masiowski said he's encouraged by some of the new restrictions and thinks the policy makers are well-intentioned, but also thinks the government should have gone further.

"I'm just not confident that that's going to be enough to turn this around," Masiowski said.

"There's a lot of kindling around that could catch fire."

With files from Bonnie Allen and the Afternoon Edition

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