Sask. Health Authority to slow, pause some services due to ‘unchecked spread of COVID’ among unvaccinated!/cumulusImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_620/scarborough-general-hospital.jpg

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is planning to slow down and pause “certain work” to focus on COVID-19 efforts, according to an internal newsletter circulated to health-care workers and obtained by CBC News Thursday.

In the message, SHA president and CEO Scott Livingstone wrote that “in the coming days” health authority leaders will work to implement changes to help cope with the extreme stress teams are under.  

The slowdown could affect surgical wait lists and “these types of services,” he said.

“The harsh reality is: there are no easy choices. We will slow down services, but that will have consequences too,” he said. 

Livingstone’s message went on to reiterate to staff that vaccines work and that unvaccinated people continue to clog up the province’s health-care system.

“The unchecked spread of COVID among this population is escalating pressure on our hospitals and will result in Saskatchewan residents going without certain health services that they rely on to maintain their quality of life,” he said. 

“Not only are they choosing to risk their own lives by going without the protection vaccines provide, they are risking the lives of those they love and those in their communities.”

Livingstone added that the worsening COVID-19 situation is taking a toll on medical health staff.

“Physicians, nurses and the other skilled health professionals we rely on are a finite resource. As cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions escalate, there is a risk we will fully expend their capacity,” he said. 

“When that occurs, the unvaccinated will be making a choice for you about whether you will receive the high quality, lifesaving supports you are entitled to as a Canadian citizen.”

Livingstone, Premier Scott Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab are scheduled to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. CST Friday.

SHA workers still awaiting details on vaccination policy

While COVID-19 immunizations are not currently mandated for SHA staff, the province has said it plans to establish a policy to require proof of vaccination or frequent testing among some front-line health-care workers.

On Aug. 30, Premier Scott Moe said details on this workplace policy would be announced in the coming days.

Without giving any details, Livingstone addressed the upcoming vaccination policy in another internal SHA newsletter on Tuesday.

“We are developing this policy now because we do not believe that we can provide a safe workplace any longer without our front-line staff either being vaccinated or undertaking a rigourous testing regimen,” he wrote, noting at the time that one in five health-care workers in Saskatchewan were not vaccinated.

Livingstone encouraged his staff to “please be patient” over the next few weeks as the SHA and province continue to work with the Saskatchewan Medical Association and “other key health partners” for input on the policy.

CBC News has reached out to the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority for an update on the rollout of the plan.