SASAKTOON -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) plans to free up more than 1,500 beds in Saskatoon for a potential surge in acute patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"SHA services will adapt and expand to meet the projected COVID‐19 patient demand, while continuing to deliver essential services to non‐COVID‐19 patients throughout the duration of the event," according to the SHA's COVID-19 readiness plan, released publicly on Wednesday.

If required 1,266 beds could be used for COVID-19 patients, with another 301 reserved for non-COVID-19 patients.

· Saskatoon City Hospital: 35 Non-COVID, 272 COVID

· St. Paul's Hospital: 61 Non-COVID, 291 COVID

· Royal University Hospital: 205 Non-COVID, 453 COVID

· Merlis Belsher Place Field Hospital: 250 COVID

· Jim Pattison Children's Hospital: 149 base beds plus 52 surge beds for COVID and non-COVID patients.

Patients would be be sorted by units and by floor.

Additional long term care beds have been secured at Parkridge Centre and the Geriatric Unit, while SHA-owned and affiliated long term care sites are expanding capacity.

SHA has modelled three scenarios for the pandemic, in which one person with COVID-19 would infect an average of 2.4 people, 2.76 people or 4.0 people.

That means between 153,000 to 408,000 total cases and 3,075 to 8,370 deaths. Based on an estimated population of 1.18 million, the infection rates are 13 per cent under the lowest model, 22.2 per cent under the middle model and 34.5 per cent under the highest model.

The modelling is not a prediction, but a range of what-if scenarios to guide planning, according to the report.

Current interventions have made a difference and the most important variable to save lives public compliance with isolation measures, physical distancing and hand washing, the SHA said.