May 05, 2020

Saskatchewan Health Authority Service Resumption Plan Released

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be initiating a phased resumption of health care services on May 19, 2020.

This process will start to reverse some of the service changes and reductions that had been initiated at earlier phases of the SHA’s COVID-19 Readiness Plan.

“Recent data does indicate that the province is in a better position now to move forward on reintroducing services in a gradual and thoughtful way because of the interventions that have been taken to slow the spread of COVID-19,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said.  “As we do so, it is critical to remember that we will be constantly evaluating this process to ensure the safety of our patients, residents and our health care workers, remaining flexible in our approach to adapt to new developments and localized outbreaks.”

The SHA’s Service Resumption Plan is four phases and serves as a framework; implementation will vary across the province based on factors like outbreaks, capacity, availability of health care workers and availability of key supplies.  Only the first phase has a specific date.  All future phases will be based on assessing these and other factors constantly to ensure it is safe to move forward.

Phase 1: Resumption of some everyday health services and expansion of surgeries and diagnostic imaging - Phase 1 will start May 19, 2020.

Highlights from this phase include:

  • Surgical services: phased expansion of surgeries from emergency and three week urgent cases to those booked as six week urgent cases, resulting in a 10 to 25 per cent increase in surgical services.

o       Ex. Cataracts, hysterectomy, cochlear, thoracic

  • Diagnostic imaging: Increased outpatient volumes, including:

o       MRI: increase from 50 per cent of normal capacity to 75 per cent of normal capacity

o       CT: increase from 55 per cent of normal capacity to 75 per cent of normal capacity

  • Primary Care Clinics: expand availability, continue to use virtual care where possible, and prioritize in person visits for those living with chronic diseases
  • All routine immunizations
  • Public Health Inspections: increase inspections of long-term care homes, personal care homes and group homes.
  • Mental health and addictions: re-open mental health short stay units, allow the option of in-person appointments as needed, allow more therapeutic/day programming for groups under 10 people and resume regular hours for harm reduction programs.
  • Also includes gradual re-introduction of services in other key areas like home care, kidney health, rehabilitation and therapy programs.

Interdisciplinary teams, including physicians, will continue assessing all waiting patients to ensure surgeries and diagnostics are performed in a timely manner.

Established online programs and virtual care will continue to be used in the delivery of service across the province, wherever possible.  There will be renewed opportunity for in-person appointments when necessary.  Patient flow through facilities will be designed to achieve physical distancing and staggered appointments will assist with limiting the number of patients in a facility at any one time.

Phase 2: Specialty Clinics (dates to be determined)

The plan notes that SHA-operated specialty clinics will continue with virtual care at specialty clinics, where possible.

Other highlights from this phase include service delivery in the following specialty areas:

  • Electrophysiology, cath lab, cardiac stress testing, outpatient heart monitoring
  • Respiratory:

o       Level three sleep disorders testing

o       Respiratory outpatient clinic

o       Tuberculosis clinic and treatments

  • Eye centre testing
  • Dermatology clinics
  • Cast clinics
  • Increased fetal testing at high risk antenatal clinics

Phase 3: Further Expansion of Everyday Health Services (dates to be determined)

Highlights from this phase include prioritizing resumption of service delivery in the following areas:

  • Chronic Disease Management/Wellness Programs/Stroke Prevention
  • Opioid Agonist Therapy
  • Specialized services for clients with developmental disabilities, Autism and brain injuries
  • Continued re-introduction of mental health and addictions services, including opening of social detox and addictions inpatient treatment

Phase 4: Full Resumption of Services (dates to be determined)

Final actions required for full resumption of services, including:

  • Addition of long-waiting elective surgeries and previously postponed surgeries; and
  • Re-open hip/knee outpatient clinic.

“Our service resumption plans are very much dependent on the health system’s ability to respond, in partnership with the public,” SHA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Shaw said.  “I recognize the feeling of wanting to get back to normal; however it’s essential that we proceed thoughtfully, and continue to maintain those everyday practices that have been so successful to date, including physical distancing, handwashing and staying home wherever possible.”

All patients immediately impacted will receive phone calls with updates specific to their situation, including new surgical or procedure dates, as appropriate.  There is no need to contact your provider for this information.

Saskatchewan Health Authority's weekly update on its current COVID-19 Readiness Plan can be found online at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19.