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Nurses at St. Paul's Hospital 'stop the line' after patient goes into respiratory arrest

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A traumatic situation in a Saskatoon hospital waiting room prompted nurses to enact a last-resort measure to sound the alarm about overcapacity and patient safety.

A patient went into respiratory arrest on Monday morning in the St. Paul's Hospital emergency waiting room, according to staff.

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) said there was no space behind the ER doors, with four beds in the hallway already.

The situation triggered nurses calling to "stop the line" — a phrase that originated from the manufacturing industry, where assembly lines can be stopped if there's an emergency.

Monday marked the first time St. Paul's emergency nurses have ever initiated this measure, which triggered a health and safety review.

"It means the workplace has gotten so untenable that we have to say, 'Okay, we need to stop here.' It's become dangerous for patients. It's become dangerous for workers, and we're actually not able to do the job we're hired to do," SUN President Tracy Zambory told CTV News.

"Something systemically has gone terribly wrong."

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said it wasn't a formal stop the line process, but occupational health and safety representatives came in to meet with staff and managers to review the situation.

"They determined that staff appropriately had cause to identify that there was a safety risk and initiated that process appropriately. There were no recommendations that came out of the occupational health and safety assessment," John Ash, SHA vice-president for integrated Saskatoon health, told CTV News.

Ash said the patient in question was "assessed very quickly" and received the appropriate care required.

The SHA said while Monday saw a high volume of patients in the emergency department, at no time was there a disruption in service.

In November, St. Paul's Hospital was found in violation of the national fire code — with beds crowding the hallways and obstructing exit doors.

It resulted in the SHA creating a new "action plan," which included adding more staff and adding more beds.

"Nothing that came out of that action plan have made one iota of difference to the frontline," Zambory said.

Ash said it takes time to build capacity.

"I have the utmost respect and confidence in our staff for their professionalism, their dedication, and they're highly-skilled. I know that they're working in very challenging environments, and we're doing everything that we can to support them so that patients get the right care," he said.

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