SHA has no plans 'right now' to open Regina COVID-19 field hospital

A bed inside one of Saskatchewan's field hospitals is pictured. Source: SHA

Saskatchewan health officials said the province is not currently considering activating Regina's COVID-19 field hospital, as hospitalization numbers continue to rise in the region.

"There's no plans right now to activate the field hospitals, where we're at right now," Saskatchewan Minister of Health Paul Merriman said, during a press conference Thursday.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone said while the province is not yet at a level that would warrant opening a field hospital in Regina, it remains an option if facilities reach capacity.

"There is no defined target for the opening of the field hospitals at this point in time, because we haven't exhausted that capacity," Livingstone said Thursday.

"But we do continue to look at: is there another phase service slowdown in Regina so that we can build more capacity to care for the patients, not just within Regina, but southern Saskatchewan."

Saskatchewan reached its lowest COVID-19 hospitalization total since Dec. 25 on March 12, with 129 people in inpatient care and ICU due to COVID-19, according to publicly available data from the Government of Saskatchewan. Since then, hospitalizations have climbed back up closer to 200.

As of Saturday, there are 189 people in hospital related to COVID-19 across Saskatchewan, including a record setting 42 people in ICU. Regina hospitalizations account for more than half of that total, with 96 total hospitalizations including 26 people in ICU.

Regina is currently facing its highest COVID-19 ICU hospitalization numbers yet, maintaining a record number of people in ICU every day since March 31.

The province's hospitalization numbers peaked on Feb 2, with 238 people in hospital, including 33 ICU patients. At that time, Regina had 61 people in hospital, with 12 in ICU.

As a part of its surge plan, the SHA is currently working to increase the capacity of its existing facilities.

"We do have targets that have been established to step up our capacity in order to meet COVID demand, and that includes Regina, that's the path we're on right now to increase capacity as the numbers increase," Derek Miller, the executive director of infrastructure management with the SHA, said.

The health authority is also trying to ease the strain on Regina's hospital capacity by making use of facilities outside of the city, for some types of patients.

"We've been transferring less-acute patients to facilities outside of Regina so that they can receive the most appropriate care," Livingstone said.

"As a health system we do have the ability to move patients to different location where we have available beds and staff to go along with them, in order to help load level across the system and support Regina through this surge," Miller said.

Construction of COVID-19 field hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon was completed in November 2020. The SHA originally planned for them to accommodate both COVID and non-COVID acute care patients. Initial plans for the facility said it would have 400 beds total; 200 for non-COVID patients and 200 for COVID patients.