Residents of Swift Current and the surrounding areas have expressed growing fear and concern as services at the Cypress Regional Hospital continue to be disrupted, leaving patients in a state of uncertainty.  

The disruptions, which have been occurring intermittently, have led to temporary impacts on urgent and emergent surgeries, higher-risk obstetrical endoscopy, epidural services, and more.  

These disruptions have triggered anxiety among residents, especially pregnant individuals who rely on the hospital for safe deliveries. 

MLA for Swift Current and Minister of Mental Health and Addiction, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health, Everett Hindley, elaborated on the current issue. 

“The SHA has been working hard to try to minimize the impacts on patients in Swift Current and the surrounding area and we as governments have been really trying to push to make sure that we get this resolved as quickly as we can to ensure that the people of Swift Current and southwest Saskatchewan that rely on Cypress Regional Hospital are getting the care that they need.” 

One local resident and expectant mother, who preferred to remain anonymous, shared her experience of the ongoing disruptions.  

She highlighted the stress and uncertainty faced by women due to give birth, particularly over weekends when services are at their most limited.  

“False labour happened on the weekend for me and we're kind of caught between a rock and a hard place where we're trying to make a decision,” she explained. “Do we think this is real? Do we go and spend the additional money to drive out of town and then get a hotel? There are definitely additional costs that a person has to consider, and then the overall additional stress that's put on new moms and dads to begin with.  

“It's a really exciting time, and now you have to throw another factor into the equation where it takes away the excitement a little bit and stresses people out. For me, I’m stressing every time the weekend comes, I feel like my body tells this baby ‘No, you're not allowed to come out,’ and I don't want to cause any stress on like my pregnancy either.” 

The issue has caught the attention of both local residents and provincial authorities, with Hindley revealing that the primary cause of the disruptions is a staffing shortage, particularly the lack of anesthesiologists and operating room nurses. 

“That can happen for any number of reasons, such as someone can be sick or be on leave, or perhaps a vacant position, somebody's taking some well-deserved holidays or a break, but most significantly, what's impacting it is the lack of anesthesiologists here in Swift Current,” Hindley explained. “We currently have one anesthesiologist, when there should be three, so, when that individual is away, that leads to an impact of the services that are available.” 

The lack of anesthesia services and operating room nursing staff not only impacts deliveries but also raises concerns about the hospital's ability to provide comprehensive care for patients in need of surgical interventions. 

Hindley did clarify that the Cypress Regional Hospital is still able to accommodate low-risk pregnancies during these times. 

“When there are times where there's a service disruption when anesthesia services and operating room nursing staff are not available, low-risk of statistical needs will continue to be accommodated,” he elaborated. “Low-risk deliveries would not include any surgical interventions such as cesarean sections, that might require the expertise of an operating room nurse or anesthesiologist.” 

He added that patients will be involved in creating a birth plan with their obstetrician, family physician, or midwife prior to their due date. 

Hindley noted that work is underway to rectify the shortages seen in Swift Current. 

“From my understanding, there have been some contacts made by the SHA with some anesthesiologists to provide some local coverage to fill some of the current gaps that we have at the Regional Hospital here in Swift Current,” he stated. “I'm not sure how close we are to being able to secure those but there has been some contact made and I think there's some work being done to try to recruit locums to Swift Current on a short-term basis and it would be my hope that that is done as quickly as possible.” 

Additionally, the two-term MLA said that the government is aware of the urgency of the situation, and is combating the problem in many ways, including new incentives in the province. 

“We've asked, through our officials at the Ministry, but also at the SHA, that we do everything possible to try to recruit people to our province here in Saskatchewan and to retain the ones that are here to make sure that that we keep people that are working in this province,” he explained. “We have a number of incentives that we have put in place to recruit anesthesiologists. There's a new incentive that's being offered to anesthesiologists establishing a practice in regional and urban sites. That includes, and this is new, $200,000 over five years to new recruits in our regional centers in Saskatchewan.” 

As the province and the SHA work to address the critical staffing gaps, the hope remains that a permanent solution will be found, allowing residents to access healthcare without uncertainty.

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