As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise in Saskatchewan, an internal health authority memo reveals concerns about rising hospital bed occupancy and testing centres being at maximum capacity, among other "emerging issues."  

The number of new cases has spiked dramatically in Saskatchewan in the past two weeks, setting new records for the new cases reported in a day. There were 306 active cases in the province on Monday, with the majority coming from the central (86) and south (156) regions. Another 37 cases were active in Saskatoon.   

A July 27, 2020, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) document, a regular update distributed to SHA staff, was released to the public by the Saskatchewan NDP Tuesday.

The memo said bed occupancy is increasing across the province with a concentration in Saskatoon — adding that redirection of patients outside of Saskatoon will occur as needed.

It also states that most testing centres in the province are at maximum capacity. This follows complaints about delays from Saskatchewan residents this month, with some reporting waits of five or more days before getting booked for testing.

Health memo says testing delays being addressed

The document states that the resumption of services, which have reopened in phases since initial shut downs due to the pandemic, will be reviewed "to ensure we are managing all areas accordingly."

"Significant public feedback around testing and delays is being addressed," reads the document.

CBC has asked the SHA and Health Minister Jim Reiter to address the issues raised in the document. 

Premier Scott Moe said last Thursday that the province, which can run about 1,800 to 2,000 tests per day, was not yet at capacity. 

Almost 1,800 tests were recorded on Saturday and another 1,600 on Monday. 

NDP calls on health minister to explain

The Saskatchewan NDP has accused the provincial government of failing to prepare the health system for a resurgence of COVID-19. 

"We're calling for an explanation from Minister Reiter regarding those gaps in our health care capacity and it's quite concerning that we're already in this situation having to divert ICU patients," said NDP health critic Vicki Mowat in a news conference Tuesday.

"It raises a lot of concerns about what the future holds for patients in Saskatchewan as we continue to manage through this pandemic."

The NDP also raised concerns about reports of immunocompromised patients being treated in hallways due to bed shortages. 

Angela McLean, a woman who last year spoke out about her experience being treated in a hallway at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina, said a friend of hers who is immunocompromised recently found themself in the same situation. Her friend did not want to be named.

"How is it possible that there's nowhere but a hallway to put someone who is immunocompromised and severely ill, in the middle of a global pandemic?" she said. 

Higher rate of transmission

The internal SHA memo also states that the effective reproductive rate (Rt) for Saskatchewan is 2.2 — much higher than the tipping point of 1 that indicates when case numbers are beginning to grow. 

A reproductive number of 2.2 means for every person infected an average 2.2 more are contracting the disease. 

The Rt for the central and south regions of Saskatchewan, where case numbers have spiked, is 2.24. The Rt in the far north, where a previous outbreak has ended, is 0.98.