Saskatchewan health officials preparing for thousands to die: document

Saskatchewan health officials preparing for thousands to die: document

REGINA — The spread of COVID-19 could exceed the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s capacity for acute services and amount to a death toll in the thousands, says a document.

Some estimates for infections as well as preparations on how to deal with the spread of the virus are outlined in a March 20 internal planning presentation from the authority, obtained by The Canadian Press.

It says that with a 30 per cent infection rate, about 240,000 people are expected to remain at home while 15,000 people will require hospitalization in intensive care units.

A fatality rate of between three to five per cent, or between 9,000 and 15,000 people, is expected, it reads.

The presentation underscores that “time is of the essence” and “preparations must begin immediately,” with more accurate modelling to come.

It says all scenarios show the outbreak will have huge impact on the province’s health-care system and the SHA’s strategy is to “contain, delay and mitigate.”

“Demand for acute services will exceed existing capacity for hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators as well as creating a major burden on other acute services, supports, HR, supplies, and equipment,” it reads.

The presentation echoes advice from public-health experts to practise social distancing to limit how fast the virus spreads and how many cases enter the health-care system.

“However, even under conservative assumptions, COVID-19 will almost certainly overwhelm the health system,” it reads.

“There will likely be pronounced loss of life and health.”

SHA spokesman Doug Dahl said Tuesday the draft document is based on “early modelling and worst case scenarios.

“Modelling is still being refined to ensure we have the best information about the additional capacity that will be needed to effectively manage COVID-19,” he said.

The document outlines three stages of how the authority plans to deal with demand, including the creation of COVID-19 hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon.

It also says “exponential growth” of the virus is expected in Saskatoon.

“At the peak of the pandemic, Saskatoon will need the capacity to provide ventilatory support nearly 500-600 patients daily (ventilation and non-invasive ventilation),” the presentation reads.

“Saskatoon will need capacity for 2,000 COVID-19 patients who do not require ventilation at peak demand.”

The SHA has said that its has 91 adult ventilators, with 250 more on order, and more than 80 sub-acute ventilators.

Saskatchewan has so far reported 66 cases of COVID-19. The province’s chief medical health officer has said there’s no evidence yet of community transmission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 24, 2020

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

The Canadian PressThe Canadian Press

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