Provincial hospitals could soon be overwhelmed with patients suffering severe effects of COVID-19, according to preliminary projections outlined in a leaked Saskatchewan Health Authority document. The document includes a death toll of 15,000 in a worst-case scenario.
“In all modelling scenarios, the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on acute care health service delivery across the province,” the document said.
Titled COVID-19 Planning: Strategy for Continuity of Health Services and Surge Capacity, the plan summarizes a range of impacts the virus could have on the province’s health care system.
“This was a draft document based on early modelling and worst-case scenarios,” SHA responded to Global News via email. “Modelling is still being refined to ensure we have the best information about the additional capacity that will be needed to effectively manage COVID-19.”
The document also states, “demand for acute services will exceed existing capacity for hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators as well as creating a major burden on other acute services, supports, HR, supplies and equipment.”
To meet the demand, SHA listed a number of measures required including increasing acute care capacity while maintaining non-pandemic related services – all while protecting the physical and mental health of frontline workers.
The internal projections estimate about 300,000 people — about 30 per cent of the population — will be infected by COVID-19. Of that, 15,000 people are expected to require ICU.
Currently, Saskatchewan has 109 ICU beds province-wide. The document also notes that “early social distancing will delay and lessen the peak of the outbreak.”
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A three-stage operational plan was outlined in the document.
The province is currently implementing stage one, which includes cancelling elective procedures, postponing non-urgent surgery and closing patient clinics.
Stage two calls for an increase in capacity for COVID-19 care which includes repurposing space in existing facilities and possibly turning community centers into temporary care spaces.
Stage three is ongoing and focuses on isolation and containing COVID-19 through continued screening and testing.
SHA also reported that Saskatoon would see an “exponential growth” of COVID-19 and will need to increase capacity to provide ventilatory support to “nearly 500-600 patients daily” at peak demand.
The leaked document says Saskatoon’s death rate will be consistent with other parts of the world.
The document refers to projections that appear to be based on situation reports from March 19 and March 20, 2020.
Responding to the leaked report, Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said the government should better communicate the risks, so the public is well educated about what they’re facing.
“I think the government should be sharing all of the information they have,” Meili said. “If they have modelling of what’s likely to happen under different scenarios that’s something the public should see, and we should have all of that information clearly in front of us.”
COVID-19 has already started to affect hospitals in some regions of the country. In Quebec, officials said on Tuesday that there were already 67 patients in hospital, including 31 in intensive care.
Some physicians in Toronto have also been warning on social media that they are seeing signs in their emergency rooms that the number of infected patients is likely higher than the official numbers released by provinces.
SHA is commenting on the report on Tuesday afternoon.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
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