'We are losing this battle': More than 300 Sask. doctors sign letter demanding government action on COVID-19

Hundreds of Saskatchewan doctors have signed an open letter to the provincial government demanding more action to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Record case numbers, hospitalizations in recent days show need to do more, says letter

Doctors from across Saskatchewan have signed an open letter calling for Premier Scott Moe and others to do more to combat COVID-19. The province has seen record case counts, hospitalizations and ICU admissions in recent days. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

Hundreds of Saskatchewan doctors have signed an open letter to the provincial government demanding more action to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The letter, obtained by CBC News, was due to be posted publicly Wednesday.

"It is becoming increasingly clear to us, physicians from across Saskatchewan, that we are losing the battle against this virus," states the letter, which had attracted 340 signatures by Wednesday afternoon.

"If more is not done to change our course we are confident that winter will bring overflowing hospitals, cancelled surgeries, overwhelmed health-care providers and needless death."

Record case numbers

Physicians from across the province in all specialities signed the letter, Saskatoon emergency and trauma specialist Dr. Brent Thoma said when contacted Tuesday. He hopes it will prompt the government — and their own patients — to take the virus more seriously.

Saskatchewan has seen record case numbers, hospitalizations and intensive-care-unit admissions over the past week. The situation is even worse in neighbouring Alberta and Manitoba, the latter of which ordered non-essential business closures and imposed severe restrictions on gathering Tuesday.

The open letter, addressed to Premier Scott Moe, new Health Minister Paul Merriman and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, does not make specific policy suggestions or demands. Thoma said the doctors don't want to seem political. He said they simply want to create some "momentum" for change.

"These experts know what they're doing, but seeing these case numbers, we don't think that they're doing enough. They need to take definitive steps," Thoma said. "Nothing about this is going to be easy, but we have to do something."

Look to Maritimes, letter urges

The letter notes in the past 30 days, the number of active COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan has increased 700 per cent, to 1,289. Hospitals have seen a 517 per cent increase in COVID-19 admissions. It also said Saskatoon intensive care units are at 130 per cent capacity and are diverting patients.

The letter said the government can look to places such as the Maritimes, New Zealand and South Korea for ideas. It said there is no time to waste.

"The lives and livelihoods of Saskatchewan people depend upon you."

In an emailed statement, Health Minister Paul Merriman thanked the physicians for their engagement and dedication.

"I agree that a solid foundation of science and expert medical opinion is central to an effective response to COVID-19, which is why our government has been acting upon the advice and guidance of our top doctor, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab," he stated, adding that advice is crucial to fighting the pandemic in the province, while also keeping up a strong economy.

Restrictions have been placed on operating hours for Saskatoon nightclubs, and masks are now mandatory in public indoor spaces in the province's three largest cities.

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