Senior Sask. doctor says growing number of younger COVID patients in ICU makes her jaw drop

Dr. Susan Shaw says "there is no cure better than prevention."

Dr. Susan Shaw says 'there is no cure better than prevention'

Dr. Susan Shaw, the chief medical officer for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, works in intensive care wards. (CBC News)

The proportion of relatively younger Saskatchewan COVID-19 patients under intensive care in Regina has grown at an alarming rate in recent days, says the province's chief medical officer.

Dr. Susan Shaw of the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) tweeted new intensive care statistics for the city's hospitals on Friday morning, following a virtual town hall attended by SHA physicians on Thursday night.

Up-to-date statistics about the COVID-19 situation in Saskatchewan are usually shared among doctors during those sessions and eventually posted online by the SHA.

"I work in our ICUs. I follow our numbers throughout each and every day. I know we are seeing younger people admitted to ICU due to #COVID19SK. And this graph still made my jaw drop," Shaw's post read.


Shaw included a slide from Thursday night's town hall presentation that broke down Regina's daily count of COVID-19 patients under intensive care by age group from early March to April 8.

It showed a considerable bump in the number of patients aged 40 to 59 (shown in orange bars) compared to other age groups, as well as an uptick in patients aged 20 to 39 (blue bars).

(Susan Shaw/Twitter)

The findings come as cities like Regina face a rising tide of COVID-19 variants, which have been shown to be more transmissible among young people compared to the regular strain of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, 206 Saskatchewan people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across the province, including 41 in ICUs. More than half of the ICU patients, 25, were in the Regina area.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said Thursday that while Regina ICUs are at capacity, there remains room to send patients to Saskatoon if needed.

Overall hospitalizations decreased in first quarter, but context is key

Earlier this week, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, shared slides of his own at a COVID-19 news conference he co-hosted with Merriman. The slides covered the first quarter of 2021 only. 

One slide showed that overall hospitalizations and ICU admissions in Saskatchewan decreased from January to March.

(Government of Saskatchewan)

Alex Wong, an infectious diseases specialist and practising physician at Regina General Hospital, said context was important when looking at that slide.

"[There's] no question that the data is accurate, but it's misleading if you take it at face value," Wong said.

"The majority of the hospitalizations right now are in one place [Regina]. They are not spread out throughout the province. We have never surged like this in [Regina], and if we're still trending upwards in terms of cases here, the rest of the province is going to be in big trouble when it hits everywhere else."

Wong said the higher hospitalization numbers in January were distributed evenly across the province.

"Central and northern Saskatchewan haven't even begun to feel this," Wong said. "It would be more meaningful to show [Regina] hospitalizations only as a way to understand what the rest of the province is truly in for."

READ | The province's full presentation Wednesday on COVID-19 in the province during the first quarter of 2021.

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Prevention is key, Shaw says

Shaw also had a message for people.

"We can make COVID-19 pneumonia a preventable disease," she tweeted. "There is no cure better than prevention."

At the news conference earlier this week, Moe said, "the only strategy through the pandemic is vaccines."


Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.


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