Sask. hospitals still feeling COVID-19 pressure as ICU cases jump 38%

A Saskatchewan health official is asking the public to be patient as the province continues to experience a "high plateau" of acute care demand for COVID-19 cases.

"The people we deal with, our patients and the public, (have an) overriding impression that everything is back to normal and everything is fine. We aren't back to normal," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Froh said during a physician's town hall last week.

"The system is coping but it's not back to normal and I would just like to remind everyone, please be patient, please be kind to our healthcare workers. Our teams are doing their very best and you will get the care you require," the Saskatchewan Health Authority official said.

Saskatchewan has seen a nine per cent increase in non-ICU hospitalizations of COVID-19 positive people in the past two weeks. ICU cases have risen 39 per cent, according to data shared during the event.

Inpatient medicine units in Saskatoon and Regina continue to be above capacity and there are prolonged emergency room waits and a backlog of emergency room patients who are admitted but have no bed.

"I do have to say that there has been a tremendous amount of work done by local teams to work on this problem, to try to mitigate this problem, and we are still having these challenges," Froh said.

Medical Health Officer Dr. Johnmark Opondo said in his update that sporadic increases in transmission shouldn't be surprising considering that Omicron is still circulating and as pandemic measures were dropped while infection rates remained high.

He said a high risk of infection remains, with evidence that some people are susceptible to infection if they haven't had their vaccines or boosters, or re-infection if their immunity is waning.

Vaccination rates including booster coverage need to increase, he said.

About 41 per cent of Saskatchewan residents were fully vaccinated with a booster dose as of April 10, he said.

According to the data he presented, Alberta had the lowest rate among the provinces of 37 per cent, while Newfoundland and Labrador was the highest at 56 per cent.

"Thankfully, COVID Omicron has shown that it has less tendency to cause virulent illness. But for those who are susceptible, it still can.

"Vaccines and vaccine coverage with a booster dose is still important and getting your third dose booster is really important for protection from hospitalization and mortality.