Dr. Alex Wong is an infectious disease physician at the Regina General Hospital. He says the current state of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan is, in a nutshell, “bad.” “We’re on exactly the same trajectory as Alberta, you know, and we have fewer restrictions than Alberta, and our critical care capacity is obviously already at maximum,” Wong said.
“We don’t expect anything to change drastically in the next two or three weeks, probably at least, unless some very important steps are put in place. ”
This means going further than the restrictions announced by the province last week, which included the return of a mandatory mask warrant and the introduction of proof of vaccination policy.
Wong says Saskatchewan may need to put in place a lockdown.
Over the weekend and Monday, Saskatchewan broke records for daily cases, hospitalizations and the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care.
The record number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) is what worries Wong so much.
Intensive care units have limited resources and it is best to view COVID-19 patients as an additional burden on top of any other patients who might need specialist care.
Wong says that when intensive care units become overcrowded and there are no more beds, it will affect not only those with COVID-19 but others as well.
Anyone, even those who might need urgent care for something like a car accident, could face the prospect of no hospital beds available and limited staff.
This means sorting out cases or deciding which patients will receive life-saving care.
People could die, Wong said.
“If we choose to do nothing, it’s just going to cost us lives,” he said.
Intensive care taken to the limit
This choice is not only a theoretical possibility either.
Last week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) confirmed it had moved to the second of four growing phases of critical care capacity. The province was in the first stage three weeks ago.
On Monday, the SHA confirmed there were 82 patients in intensive care beds across the province at noon Monday.
There are normally only 79 intensive care beds, but Saskatchewan has increased its capacity by 22 additional beds for a total of 102.
The province says it is also using the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon for adult patients to meet increased demand in the city.
Wong went so far as to say that a lockdown should be implemented to “significantly” limit the amount of contact individuals have with each other.
“We’re looking at several weeks, I think, before we start flattening [the curve] and we are already at the maximum, ”he said. “So it’s a bad place, which is why, unfortunately, we probably need more action pretty soon. “
Even with new measures, Wong says he’s not convinced Saskatchewan will avoid implementing triage protocols.
“It’s a really horrible situation that no one wants to be in,” he said.
“We’re just talking about making it less bad, frankly, not avoiding it altogether. I don’t think avoiding it will really be possible. “
Last week, it looked like Saskatchewan was a week or two behind Alberta and the state of COVID-19 there. Wong said recent data indicates this is probably no longer the case.
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The Health Ministry did not provide a response when asked to respond to Wong’s calls for tougher measures to be implemented.
Instead, the ministry made a brief statement saying they and the Saskatchewan Health Authority continue to monitor COVID-19 trends in the province.
“If further action is required, we will announce them publicly through press releases and press conferences,” the statement said.