CAF sending nursing officers to support Sask. ICUs

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is offering to send medical officers to Saskatchewan to assist in intensive care units (ICU) and provide other health care supports.

CAF said it is prepared to assign up to six Critical Care Nursing Officers to work in Saskatchewan ICUs.

“We are currently working with provincial authorities to ensure these medical professionals will be employed in the best possible location based on the needs of the people of Saskatchewan,” CAF said in an emailed statement.

The armed forces said it will also provide air transport for in or out-of-province critical care patient transfers, as capacity allows. On Friday, the province announced intensive care patient transfers to Ontario would likely increase in the next few weeks, with potential for two to four per day.

Additionally, two support teams could be assigned to backfill Saskatchewan Health Authority nurses that were deployed to provide support in ICUs, and support acute care.

CAF is planning to assist the province until Nov. 17, but noted that date could be extended if needed.

“As supporting CAF personnel travel to Saskatchewan and begin integration training with their provincial counterparts, further updates will be made available,” CAF said.

The federal government approved a request from Saskatchewan for COVID-19 assistance on Friday.

The province reached out to Ottawa for additional assistance Monday morning, the same day it struck a deal with Ontario to transfer COVID-19 ICU patients.

Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair said in a tweet that the federal government is also in talks with the province to provide assistance through the Red Cross.

Saskatchewan NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the response from the provincial government has come at a point where the province's health system is nearing collapse. 

"The premier said he needed to exhaust every resource in the province. Let me tell you the healthcare workers in this province are already exhausted, they needed this help weeks ago and Scott Moe let them down," he said. 

Professor of community health and epidemiology, Nazeem Muhajarine said the government's response is about one month behind. 

"They should have requested it on Sept. 24 or 25," Muhajarine said. "So in between those 30 days, more than 100 people have died."