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'It's the worst they've seen it': Saskatoon children’s hospital overwhelmed

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The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) is warning about an ongoing health crisis at Saskatoon’s Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital (JPCH).

“There are no beds left,” SUN president Tracy Zambory told CTV News. “It’s the worst they’ve seen it ever.”

She said she’s been hearing from nurses that are overwhelmed with the situation, and that children are coming to the hospital sicker than ever.

“They've turned all of the spaces that they could possibly turn into beds. We're putting people and our children even more at risk because you're not supposed to try to push kids into every single corner.”

She said the rising number of children needing care lowers the ratio of nurses to patients, which further perpetuates the staffing problem.

“People are being called into work nights. They had nights where they had nobody. They're even calling people who are orientating to come and work at night. Well, that is a dangerous situation right there. Because these are people that have not been fully oriented to work in the ward. But because we are so incredibly short-staffed, we're in a nursing crisis,” Zambory said.

“Now our kids are starting to feel it. So now along with other areas of the healthcare system that have collapsed, we can see for sure that at JPCH our members, the registered nurses of this province, are trying to care for kids in the rubble of a collapse.

“It's really going to end up in a tragedy if we don't do something.”

Premier Scott Moe said that Saskatchewan was not the only province struggling with healthcare.

“It's a collective challenge across Canada,” he said. “I would say the provinces are already making the investments that are necessary to really look at how we deliver health care differently, but also bring more people to our frontlines.”

Zambory said that as a higher rates of sickness coincides with a nursing shortage, patients are suffering.

“Kids that have mental health issues are having their treatments in care being pushed back. Kids that require surgery, those are being delayed and pushed back, because the system is overrun, and there is no place to put these kids. It's just a perfect storm of disaster that has now finally completely landed with the pediatric system in Saskatoon at JPCH, and I would wager to say, across the province.”

The situation has also been causing difficulty for families of the children, Zambory said.

“Children are being moved all over the province to try to find safe care for them, where it's fully staffed and they're able to be looked after. But that again puts even more pressure on families to try to find their way to their children.”

She said that causes further stress and economic hardship for people.

“This entire thing is turning into a colossal disaster that needs to be dealt with, but it's gone silent.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) released a statement to CTV News and said they were working with a provincial network to ensure that children have access to the care they need.

Sixteen additional beds, 11 in the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital and five in Regina General Hospital, are actively being added to the Pediatric network to increase access to care for children. Incremental staff have been added at peak times into areas that are seeing increased utilization, such as the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, Yorkton and Moose Jaw Acute Care Pediatrics.

SHA advised families continue seeking care if they have a child that is sick, including seeing their family physician, calling Healthline 8-1-1 or going to the hospital if required.

Zambory said they’ve been calling on the government to set up a task force to solve the problem but have not had any response.

“We don't get spoken to. We don't get asked how things are going. There's just comments made in the media about how it lands at our feet, that this is a problem because we're off ill or taking too much vacation.

“We want people to understand that the health care system is in freefall, much of it is collapsing around us. There have been no improvements. It has gotten worse since Christmas and there's nothing on the pathway to getting better.”

Moe said the province has a plan to bring in workers from the Philippines to help with the load.

“I would say that our health human resource plan that we have in place is going to bring relief not only to the Jim Pattison Children's Hospital but to all of our health facilities and communities right across Saskatchewan,” Moe said, adding the Minister of Health was in the Philippines just before Christmas.

Moe said he was thankful for the hard work the staff at JPCH does.

“Our Jim Pattison Children's Hospital, not unlike many other children's hospitals across the nation, is very much busy and at capacity many of the days,” he said.

“I can't imagine going through the challenges that we are today without those 1000 physicians without those 5000 nurses without that piece of infrastructure to offer those services.”  

With files from Keenan Sorokan

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