More Health Services Resume, Universal Testing Begins This Week
Health services in Saskatchewan continue to expand, with additional everyday programs and services further increasing beginning July 13. This is outlined as Phase 3 of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s service resumption plan which was initially announced in May.
Services that will resume in this next phase include: - Further enhanced mental health and addictions support, including the opening of social detox and addictions inpatient treatment; - Additional Chronic Diseases Management/Wellness Programs/Stroke Prevention; and - Specialized services for clients with developmental disabilities, Autism and brain injuries.
Since service resumption began on May 19, 544 health services have re-started in all areas of the province. Regina and southern areas have seen more services resume compared with Saskatoon and the north, given the COVID-19 cases in those areas and the response personnel required to support it.
“Overall, we’ve been pleased with our ability to bring services back online, while still implementing strategies to keep patients and providers safe,” SHA Chief Executive Officer Scott Livingstone said. “Patients and their families have been very understanding of the additional screening measures and changes to how they had traditionally received service. Both staff and physicians are happy to be seeing their patients again, as well.”
Surgical volumes have been increased at each ease phase of service resumption, including the most recent phase which included more urgent, emergent and also some elective procedures. This next phase will further increase surgical volumes to between 75 and 85 per cent of pre-COVID levels. These numbers vary significantly by site and as a result of staff availability. Moose Jaw’s Dr. F.H Wigmore Hospital, for example, is achieving beyond 100 per cent of their pre-COVID surgical levels as a result of new surgeons that were recruited to the community. Together, the SHA and Ministry of Health are working in partnership with physicians and other operational leaders to continue focus on the backlog of surgeries.
Medical Imaging capacity has also increased to 90 per cent of pre-COVID service levels overall, with MRIs at 91 per cent and CT at 93 per cent, for example. Virtual care appointments continue to be offered where possible, with some face-to-face services being offered, where needed. Since initiating expanded virtual care options as a result of the pandemic in March, more than 175,000 appointments have been delivered through this option.
“As we expand services, we are still also continuing to keep focused on COVID-19 support as well,’ Livingstone said. “We’ve entered our ‘new normal,’ meaning while there is still some room to increase some services, we cannot let our guard down on the pandemic, especially as we progress towards the Fall.”
All services are listed on the Saskatchewan Health Authority website, with new services being added each day at www.saskhealthauthority.ca/service-alerts. Beginning July 14, COVID-19 testing will be available universally to anyone who requests it, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. A referral for testing can be made by contacting HealthLine 811.
SHA laboratories are currently processing approximately 600 tests per day, with capacity to perform upwards of 1,800 tests per day. Patients will be prioritized for testing based on a number of factors. The time between a testing request and receiving the test itself may vary based upon patient need.
Residents are encouraged to learn more about the testing process by watching this video on Saskatchewan Health Authority’s YouTube channel (note: processes may vary slightly depending on testing location) at https://youtu.be/-oPEEbE4mQU.