Across the province, hospitals are at or above capacity and hallway medicine in emergency rooms is the new normal.
Health Minister Paul Merriman acknowledged it was unacceptable, but blames it on an unusual increase in the number of residents going to the emergency room.
“We do have influx and some of them are seasonal issues, but sometimes there are things that are out of the healthcare region’s controls. There are accidents. There are heart attacks. There are emergencies that we have to deal with… And obviously, people waiting in the hallways is not acceptable,” said Merriman.
NDP Health critic Vicki Mowat criticized Merriman because she was in a hallway back on March 24 and the health minister gave a similar response.
“That was the same response I got from the minister when I raised this after my own experience in the emergency room on March 24th in Regina. He said, ‘today was an anomaly we had a surge and that’s why you ended up in a hallway.’ We know that’s not the case, hallway medicine has become the norm,” said Mowat.
Mowat brought up the hospital capacity statistics where not only were patients in hallways, but at St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) they were also in the waiting room.
“I wasn’t surprised to see reports that there are now partitioned hospital beds in the waiting room of St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon, but in no way does that make it acceptable. The minister says these are just seasonal pressures and that health care workers have it under control,“ said Mowat.
Merriman agrees with Mowat that there are occasional issues in emergency rooms, including a recent surge in Saskatoon.
“Saskatoon is experiencing some challenges. I’ve identified that because we do have some pressure. Saskatoon, as I’ve identified before, capturing all the patients coming in from the north that are major patients have to come down to Saskatoon. So we are experiencing some challenges there at St Paul’s and Royal University hospital,” said Merriman.
“They adapted very quickly and had some extra chairs set up and once things settled out and people got to where they needed to be in our healthcare system. It was disassembled. I was disappointed that it was brought up that way because the healthcare workers are doing the absolute best they can and my job is to support them.”
During the media scrum, Mowat went into more detail about what is happening at SPH in Saskatoon and how bad it has become, including waiting for days in the hallway.
“These beds are clearly labelled, they are waiting for patients, folks are being shuffled in there and in many cases spending days in the hallway. What’s particularly concerning about the St. Paul’s (hospital) situation in Saskatoon is that we are hearing from folks that it’s never been this bad,” said Mowat.
But at SPH, it is even worse with patients being treated in the waiting room, according to Mowat.
“I’ve certainly never heard emergency room diagnoses and treatment happening in the wait room. The waiting rooms are chaotic places in emergency departments. There are people who are quite ill waiting to see physicians,” said Mowat.
“It is a loud place and a lot going on and to put all of that on the triage nurse. I think SUN (Saskatchewan’s Union of Nurses) was quite vocal that this puts their nurses in an unsafe position based on the nurse to patient ratios.”
Mowat brought up in the legislature that it is not just a Saskatoon problem, but also in Regina.
“Staff in emergency departments in Regina say it’s the worst they’ve seen. They are burnt out, and they are afraid for patients’ safety. Dr. Geller, an emergency medicine doctor from Regina, shared last night: Nineteen times last week there has been a call-out for extra help in the ER in Regina using agreed-to criteria. Nineteen times the patient volumes have been at unsafe levels,” said Mowat.
Chris Oldcorn is a Western Standard Reporter based in Regina
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