People in Saskatoon are being reminded to use common sense when attending the emergency department as flu season has contributed to what the Saskatoon Health Region is calling a critical overcapacity situation at both St. Paul’s Hospital (SPH) and Royal University Hospital (RUH).
The surge started three days ago and the number of patients has been steadily rising according to Sandra Blevins, the health region’s integrated health services vice-president. As of Thursday morning, 35 people were waiting to be admitted to the Emergency Department at RUH as the hospital dealt with more than 70 active patients.
“In our system we have what’s called a Code Orange, and a Code Orange would be a drastic number of incoming and we kind of felt like we were one patient away from being in a bad situation,” Blevins said.
In RUH emergency alone, there were 60 active patients as of Thursday afternoon, and 37 active patients at SPH’s Emergency Department. Blevins said they expect the high patient volume to continue for the next seven days, based on a predictive model.
While the health region can predict when influenza will peak, Blevins said the current influx extends beyond the emergency department with other units like intensive care, pediatrics and psychiatry operating at full capacity across the system.
On top of that, she said a lot of staff are also calling in sick.
“We’re trying to get out the messages to them that we need them at work. If they have available time to come in to work, let us know and we’ll book them,” Blevins said during Thursday’s media conference.
The health region experienced a similar surge at this time last year, so Blevins said they are trying to bring in enough staff to avoid any patient safety issues if things get worse over the rest of the peak period.
In the meantime, staff have been pulling as many patients as they can out of emergency departments and placing them into another safe care setting in order to free up space.