'We're in big trouble': COVID-19 pressures force pause on some medical tests in Saskatoon
Some types of testing will no longer be performed routinely in the Saskatoon area to free up resources for COVID-19 and critical care testing.
That's according to a Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) memo circulated among the city's medical community and shared online.
As of Wednesday, the Saskatoon Microbiology Lab will no longer support routine testing for wound cultures, throat swabs on patients over 12 and urine cultures, according to the memo. Serology (antibody) testing will run on only select days.
“All of these demands put a lot of pressure on the microbiology laboratory and of course we have to prioritize the needs of critical care testing versus other particular needs,” said the head of clinical microbiology at Royal University Hospital Dr. Joseph Blondeau.
Dr. Blondeau says the lab can process thousands of tests a day, but currently, as many as 400 every day are from specimens of someone with a urinary tract infection.
“With 400 of those a day it obviously takes a lot of resources to process those,” he said.
The SHA memo recommends physicians rely on clinical judgment to determine if a patient can be "treated empirically."
Saskatoon physician Dr. Ayisha Kurji found the change concerning.
"We’ve been directed to treat you with antibiotics without testing. If you didn’t have an infection, you will have had antibiotics for no reason," Kurji said on Twitter.
"This means more resistant bugs later. We’re in big trouble," she said.
However, Blondeau said the memo is not a blanket cancellation and testing will be able to request tests they feel are absolutely necessary.
“We never want to see antibiotics used indiscriminately, and we certainly don't want to see them used inappropriately,” he said.
“That's not what this memo was suggesting. It's suggesting that in those individuals where you think they have an infection, and where therapeutic guidelines clearly provide a recommendation for empiric therapy in the absence of collecting a specimen, are the situations that we're really referring to, Blondeau said.”
“A physician still has the ability to call us and say, ‘I know this was cancelled, but I really need this done on this patient for this reason,’ and we will do it.”