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Health officials release 'action plan' to take pressure off Saskatoon hospitals

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says its new "action plan" will help take the pressure of Saskatoon's embattled hospitals.

The plan's release comes in the wake of a CTV News report last week that revealed St. Paul's Hospital recently failed a fire department inspection due to overcrowding.

"There's no question that we're facing capacity challenges, ” SHA CEO Andrew Will, said during a news conference Tuesday morning

"I'm confident that this plan will make a significant improvement to that, both in the short term as well as positioning us better for the long term, but we definitely have hard work ahead. It's a real challenge that we're facing and it's a challenge that other provinces are facing as well," Will said

Under its "Saskatoon Capacity Pressure Action Plan," the health authority says it will immediately add temporary staff to acute care units to help move those patients to "appropriate care settings."

The SHA said it will shore up weekend staffing at Saskatoon's hospitals, "enhance its community intravenous therapy program to cut down on emergency room visits, and add temporary emergency department staffing.

Within the next 90 days, the SHA is promising to add more long-term and convalescent care beds in the community.

Also, the health authority is pledging to increase home care and palliative care resources to prevent non-urgent visits to emergency rooms.

The SHA also plans to add three intensive care beds at RUH.

A third set of steps to be taken over the next three to six months includes increasing "rapid access" to primary care for patients without a family doctor through nurse practitioners and primary care physicians, and developing community-based programs to address "common emergency department presentations."

Speaking in the legislature on Thursday, Saskatchewan Health Minister Everett Hindley said the situation at Saskatoon's hospitals "is not acceptable" and said work was underway at the SHA to address the issue.

In a letter to SHA leaders, 118 emergency department staff expressed concern about unsafe conditions at the hospital.

"I really appreciated receiving the letter from our staff that highlighted, their experience, their concerns, but also their ideas on how we could enhance patient care and better address the overcapacity challenges that we are facing," Will said.

"For me receiving that letter sent a message we needed to communicate better we needed to share the work that we are doing to address those challenges."

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory expressed skepticism about the plan's focus on reshuffling existing staff.

"When we talk about deployment. Where are you going? To deploy healthcare workers from that means that they're going to take them from away from somewhere (that's) likely in just as deep a need as ever," Zambory said.

Zambory said there are out-of-province "agency "nurses who are being trained to work at St. Paul's, who work at a cost of $120 an hour.

"This is no way to run a healthcare system. We're going to find ourselves bankrupt if we think this is a solution that we're going to hang our hats on. "

She reiterated the union's call for a nursing task force to help develop solutions to the ongoing health care "crisis" in Saskatchewan.

"We need to set up the nursing task force. We need to have those conversations immediately with the registered nurses who are thinking of leaving (and) with the registered nurses who have left and ask them how we can course correct," Zambory said.

"We're so short-staffed [in Saskatchewan] we have over a million hours of overtime clocked so far clock this year (which would pay for) 720 full-time equivalents." Top Stories

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