The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has begun to implement their temporary conversion of rural community emergency rooms in the province starting off with seven, with another five to be utilized in remaining phases.
The SHA’s COVID-19 surge plan outlines temporary conversion of community hospitals to what is called Alternate Level of Care (ALC). According to the SHA, ALC refers to a patient that could be cared for in an alternate setting, rather than an acute care setting. This would refer to palliative, convalescing, respite, rehab or long-term care patients.
Currently, this is taking place in Arcola, Lanigan, Broadview, Preeceville, Radville, Herbert and Kerrobert. During the remaining phases of the SHA’s COVID-19 surge plan, they will utilize the same conversion in Wolseley, Davidson during phase two and in Biggar, Leader and Oxbow during phase three.
According to the SHA, discussions with community leaders in all 12 communities have occurred throughout the process in order to specifically outline these changes in each community hospital.
The identified hospitals will be temporarily closed to acute care admissions and will only accept admissions to ALC. Emergency services in these locations will also be temporarily disrupted and will not be available at these facilities.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said the conversions are taking place to protect people in long-term and to use facilities’ capacity to provide care for alternative level of care positions in larger facilities.
“[It’s] so that we can both build capacity to support the reopening of the healthcare system, but also maintain capacity for COVID-19 surges and outbreaks as they arise,” said Livingstone during a press conference.
Although the cases in Saskatchewan remain low among the province, the SHA is continuing with the phased approach in the event outbreaks like the ones taking place in the north do arise again.
There have been reports that communities like Preeceville have received as little as one day notice before the conversion started taking place in their community hospital. Livingstone said the plan was made public weeks ago and it is now at the point these measures will be implemented.
“There have been discussions with local communities and mayors around this and when we said we were going to implement it in four to six weeks, we started doing that last week and that is where we are today,” he added.
Livingstone added the health system deals with closures of services all over the province all the time with short notices due to staffing difficulties and other issues.
“In many cases we are not able to prepare or tell communities what is going to happen on a temporary basis in advance, in this case we did,” said Livingstone.
“We will continue to manage our capacity as the premier has referred to before. Once we restart our healthcare system next week, we will be using that dimmer switch as we watch what happens across the province, with respect to the mixing of individuals and reduced restrictions.”
The SHA said timelines for phase three of the conversions will occur once phase two conversions are completed.