Sask. children's hospital ICU accepts adults in COVID-19 surge plan
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is shuttling some adult intensive care patients to the province’s children’s hospital in the face of surging COVID-19 cases.
“Critical care capacity is under strain and all avenues of support need to be explored to so we can continue to care for extremely ill patients,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said in a news release.
Adult patients requiring an ICU bed will be considered for admission to Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, according to the health authority.
Patients are selected through a clinical review by the adult and pediatric critical care physicians.
Pediatric patients will continue to be prioritized for critical care at the hospital’s PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) and no pediatric patients will be displaced, according to the SHA.
The change is effective immediately and is part of a larger SHA surge plan announced Sept. 17 to prepare for a growing number of COVID patients throughout the health system.
The PICU will be able to surge to 18 critical care beds, including six additional flex beds for both pediatric and selected adult patients.
Staffing plans have been developed and continue to be secured for the additional beds, much of which will come through service slowdowns.
The SHA’s normal (ICU) capacity is 79 beds. To increase ICU capacity, the SHA has also added 22 surge beds.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 78 of the 101 available ICU beds were full and two adult COVID infectious patients had been admitted to JPCH.
“The news now that we have the children's hospital ICU being used for COVID is very disturbing,” Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said.
“If we had a tragic accident involving children now, and the potential for the ICU being overwhelmed, it would be so devastating.”
Crowded ICUs and emergency rooms are also affecting wait times for ambulances across the province.
“We are seeing unprecedented offload delays in Saskatoon and Regina,” said Kelly Prime, the past president of Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan.
The province has 104 ambulance services and 3,000 practitioners – and each one is feeling pressure from the surge of COVID-19 cases, Prime said.
Paramedics are waiting up to six hours for patients to find a bed in Regina hospitals, while in Saskatoon it can take up to 17 hours.
“That's just take your stretcher, take your patient, go wait in the back hallway until something frees up, so we can take our patient off the stretcher and put them in a bed.”
Then, Prime says, paramedics must wait until that patient has been treated by a physician or nurse, and determined the next course of action.
“In Saskatoon, you're seeing anywhere from an hour to four hours of waiting time for an ambulance to respond,” said Prime.
“This is the worst that I have ever seen it, and it is getting compounded for rural due to labor shortage.”
Rural Saskatchewan is where the situation is the most dire, as paramedics are working anywhere from 16 to 18 hours a day to 40 hours straight with few breaks, he said.
“They're just running call to call to call to call, taking patients to the city, bringing patients back from the city, which is creating such fatigue on them that they're leaving the industry, which has created a labor shortage for us.”
Prime says the industry needs to see proper funding and competitive wages to keep paramedics working in rural areas.
“In my 30 years I've never seen it this bad.”