Phase two of the Saskatchewan government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on Tuesday as the Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone sat down at a press conference with the province's Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.

Phase one included slowdowns of non-essential services to increase bed availability, preserve supplies and support the rapid redeployment of the labour pool to higher affected areas.

Or as Livingstone described it:

"The changes that will be required in the healthcare system which we've already started, will impact all elective procedures, surgical and otherwise, are being done not only to protect our capacity that exists today but also to grow that capacity and be able to have the workforce to care for patients as they start coming in."

He said that it's critical that the province acts to escalate its tactics to meet the demand.

That demand, according to the SHA's models, shows that COVID-19 could potentially affect 30 percent of the population and result in thousands needing hospitalization. That number has been called too conservative by some, with many other experts citing figures anywhere from 30 to 50 percent.

Livingstone was asked why the SHA's initial modelling used the lowest possible number. He explained that their model is taking into account all of the actions that have already been taken in the province to slow the spread; the social distancing and closures of businesses.

"Because the model will continue to be added to and continue to be Saskatchewan specific and include data around what we see happening in the community based spread and the impact of this. We didn't have to tell our planning teams that it was the worst-case scenario because they knew it was the first crunch of the modelling and the modelling was going to continue to be refined. But we needed to give them a starting point."

The new plans activated today were all about helping to increase acute care capacity.

  • Creation of dedicated spaces to cohort COVID-19 patients if they must be in a shared facility.
  • Creation of COVID-19 designated hospitals in Saskatoon and Regina and other areas as needed.
  • Creation of additional community based acute care capacity where required.

That third option would take the form of field hospitals, using school gyms, community centres and rinks, etc... where required.

According to Livingstone, those field hospitals won't exist for a while, since the current focus is increasing the capacity in the current facilities, with the field hospitals looking to a future role if the worst comes to pass.

“This plan will ensure we are prepared,” Livingstone said. “But it won’t be enough; it has been proven over and over with this virus that no health system in the world can address this challenge alone without the sustained help of the general public.”

The SHA also announced the establishment of a provincial Emergency Operations Centre and Integrated Health Incident Centres (IHICC) for each of their service areas.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to escalate, those local IHICC’s that will be accountable for finalizing and deploying the continuity of services and surge capacity plans on a local level.

Communities will be updated as changes occur in their areas.