Continued efforts on the part of the public are needed to ensure our health system can respond to the impact of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan.

Modeling data released today by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) indicates the key variable for saving lives and protecting health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is public compliance with prescribed isolation measures, physical distancing, effective hand washing and staying home, whenever and wherever possible.

It also indicates that current interventions are making a difference.

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“Our job as a health care system is to provide care for those in need and to be ready for any scenario,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said. “While we understand Canadian data is starting to show some hopeful signs about flattening the curve on COVID-19, it is critical to remember not to be complacent. We need to continue to escalate our response to ensure we are prepared for the worst case scenarios and we need the public to help us avoid those scenarios.”

The SHA has increased access to testing through the creation of 38 testing sites around the province and tripled the staff available for contact tracing efforts to detect and prevent community transmission. As public health measures and capacity for community care services continue to increase, the acute care system has also been planning to add capacity. Up to 57 per cent more acute care capacity will be phased in as needed over the next several weeks, in anticipation of increased hospitalization rates. None of the major changes in this plan are immediate.

Communities will continue to be updated as changes to services and service locations occur in their areas through various communications channels as well as through Saskatchewan’s central access point for information at www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19.

The following are highlights of the measures the SHA is taking in its next phase of pandemic response to ensure safety by segmenting patient populations between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patient populations:
• Creating dedicated spaces within many of its facilities to cohort COVID-19 patients;
• Designating certain hospitals COVID-19 hospitals. These changes are not immediate. The SHA has proactively identified 20 out of its 65 hospitals that would be designated COVID-19 hospitals, if required to meet the clinical needs of the patient population in their areas of the province;
• Adding acute care capacity through the creation of field hospitals in Saskatoon and Regina, with more locations being considered as part of later, contingency planning.

These measures are in addition to those SHA has already initiated to meet the demands of COVID-19. A slowdown of non-essential services to increase bed availability has already created acute care capacity across the system for handling a surge in COVID-19 related cases at future stages of the pandemic.

As of April 5, 43 per cent of Saskatchewan’s acute care beds were available for use, largely as a result of the slow down and preparation for the surge.

“We wanted to be transparent with the plan going forward so the public is aware of the escalated measures we will put into place if needed, but it is critical to remember that many of the changes proposed in this plan will be implemented only in response to anticipated surges in patient demand that start to exceed our capacity,” Livingstone said. “Changes like conversion to COVID-19 dedicated hospitals will only occur where it is absolutely required to ensure safety and maintain access for patients who need our care.”

Saskatchewan residents can continue to help by taking specific action, including:
• Practising good hygiene, washing hands regularly and practicing physical distancing (two metres apart wherever possible);
• Taking care of family, friends and neighbours who may be affected by mandatory self-isolation orders;
• Abide by provincial and local travel, self-isolation, event and gathering restrictions;
• Use medical supplies effectively and efficiently so that they are there when needed; and
• Avoid visiting our hospitals and long-term care facilities unless there are compassionate reasons for doing so.

“No health system in the world can manage this challenge without the sustained help of the general public,” SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said. “To save lives, Saskatchewan residents need to do their best to stay healthy and strong and abide by the restrictions and guidelines for the general public around COVID-19. Demand will exceed our capacity as a health system if we are not diligent about these measures.”

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