Following the news that the military will be assisting Saskatchewan in its COVID-19 response, doctors in the province and the official opposition are saying they are grateful but more work still needs to be done.
On Friday night, Federal Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair announced on Twitter that the federal government approved a request for assistance from the provincial government.
“The (Canadian Forces) will provide communities the support they need to fight the pandemic,” the tweet stated.
Global News reached out to the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) on Saturday, who said they did not have any further updates to add following the federal government’s announcement.
A spokesperson from the National Defence said they were prepared to send up to six critical care nursing officers to help Saskatchewan’s ICUs.
The federal help is welcome news to one Regina resident whose mother is in ICU at Pasqua Hospital with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
“We were glad to hear that there’s more help coming because even though she’s not a COVID patient, there is so many others that are COVID-related in the ICU. That, of course, affects her health care there,” Janine Taylor said.
Taylor added that her family is still left wondering if the help is for COVID-19 patients exclusively and when it is expected to arrive in Saskatchewan.
“We appreciate that something is coming in now to help support those doctors and nurses that definitely we see how much they are overwhelmed right now,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s family was told earlier this week that her mother was a candidate to be transferred out of province.
The Saskatchewan Medical Association president said he is grateful there is help coming, but he thinks it could have come sooner.
“The way out of the pandemic is still vaccinations, and we all had hoped that we would have higher vaccination rates to reduce this, but we don’t,” Dr. Eben Strydom said.
“We know it’s a slow process to get proper immunity from only two weeks after you had the second shot. So we need to rely on other measures in addition to these to reduce case numbers,” Strydom said.
While Strydom thinks the extra help and out-of-province transfers will help the health-care system, he said the challenge lies in dealing with all other procedures and consultations that were halted to deal with COVID-19 patients.
“We do need to do much more to have (an) impact on the caseload, the impact that this has on our health system, to try and get back to sort of a normal where we can look after our patients … and provide a level of care that we should be able to.”
During a COVID-19 technical briefing on Friday, Dr. Saqib Shahab said while it’s not a public health order, he recommends fully vaccinated people meet with the same consistent group and wear masks, even inside a home.
Shahab said one thing he is recommending, and something the government should consider, is applying all tools like proof-of-vaccination and masking to all settings, not just ones in the public health order.
Strydom agrees these tools should be expanded to fit other settings.
Dr. Alex Wong also echoed the need for further public health restrictions.
“Our inability to put some of those temporary public health measures in place essentially means that the stream of people who continue to be infected by COVID and the people that continue to stream into our hospitals is not going to stop,” Wong said.
Sask. NDP leader Ryan Meili said it should have never gotten to this point.
“We should have never found ourselves in a situation where the fourth wave was hitting us so hard,” Meili said.
“That’s the result of inaction on the part of Scott Moe and his government.”
Meili added that federal help is a necessary step, but it should have been done weeks ago.
“You think of the impact, it’s not only the ICUs. The impact where we’ve got organ transplants being cancelled. Kids’ therapies being cancelled. Hundreds of surgeries a day being cancelled,” Meili stated.
“We can’t keep going down this road. We need gathering restrictions right away and we need this help from the federal government.”
Meili also expressed frustration over a lack of information coming from the provincial government.
Declared COVID-19 outbreaks in Saskatchewan
“How did we learn about (federal assistance coming) in a tweet from the prime minister? How did we learn ICU patients were being sent to Ottawa, tweets from doctors in Ontario. Nothing from our own government,” Meili stated.
Meili is also concerned about a music concert on Saturday night being hosted at SaskTel Centre that between 13,000 and 14,000 fans are expected to attend.
While proof of vaccination and a negative test policy will be in place as well as the mask mandate, Meili doesn’t think this is the right time to be gathering in a large crowd.
“This is a time where we should be reducing the size of gatherings to under 100, not tens of thousands.”
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