Saskatchewan Examiner

As Omicron numbers rise, a Sask doctor is concerned about the health system

As Omicron numbers increase, a Saskatchewan doctor is concerned about the health system

Key takeaways:

  • As the number of Omicron infections in Saskatchewan reaches an all-time high, the healthcare system appears to be under even more strain.
  • The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has seen a 5% increase in staff absences, according to Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer.

Dr. Alexander Wong has been busier in the last 2 weeks than he has ever been in his 15-year career.

Wong, an infectious disease physician at Regina General Hospital, has lately been caring for non-COVID patients with pneumonia or leg infections — patients whose situations worsened due to the pandemic’s inability to access healthcare on time.

Now, as Saskatchewan reaches the peak of Omicron infections, the healthcare system appears to be under even more strain. Staff and bed shortages, according to Wong, will worsen.

On Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, predicted that the province’s Omicron case peak would be reached in the next two to four weeks, with hospitalizations expected to rise until mid-February.

Also read: COVID-19 instances continue to rise in Saskatchewan, causing school divisions to pivot

The number of cases is increasing.

He hasn’t said how many cases he expects. Since December 21, the province hasn’t shared any modeling data. They estimated that by January 20, daily cases would have risen to more than 300 per day, with case numbers doubling every five days. 

On Wednesday, 1,233 cases were reported, and this is based on limited testing, which excludes anyone who tests positive based on a rapid test alone or those who are asymptomatic.

According to Wong, the province hasn’t even started to account for the extremely infectious Omicron variant.

“In terms of COVID specific admissions, we’re seeing those numbers start to rise very quickly now,” Wong said.

COVID hospitalizations in Saskatchewan continued to rise on Wednesday. The province reported 199 patients with the sickness in hospitals, with 21 of them in intensive care units.

“I just don’t know exactly what sort of system capacity we have, in terms of beds and, more importantly, staff, to be able to look after many people,” Wong said.

As Omicron numbers increase, a Saskatchewan doctor is concerned about the health system
As Omicron numbers increase, a Saskatchewan doctor is concerned about the health system. Image from CBC

This past weekend, the Royal University Hospital (RUH) and St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon were short about 40 beds.

According to Shelby Hatchen, a float nurse at RUH, it’s a problem.

“I have nowhere to put you if you get in a car crash today, heaven forbid,” Hatchen said.

According to Derek Miller, interim chief operating officer, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has seen a 5% increase in staff absences. During the 1st week of January, he stated that about 1,000 people out of a staff of about 40,000 were absent from work due to COVID or caring for a diseased child.

Wong said that while health care workers will keep going to do their best to provide care, patient-staffing ratios will be jeopardized due to these issues.

“It’s going to crash all at once,” he said, adding that people should expect long waits in hospitals across the province.

“If you end up going to the emergency room, you’ll have to wait a long time to be seen. It’ll take a lengthy period for you to get up onto a ward, so be patient, “Wong explained.

“When you’re on a ward, you might find yourself sharing a room with multiple people that were only designed for a smaller group. You could be in a corridor.”

Source: CBC

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