Saskatchewan Plans to Send More COVID-19 Patients to Ontario

Saskatchewan plans to increase the number of COVID-19 patients it sends to Ontario starting early next week.

The Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) is coordinating with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ontario Critical Care Command Centre to send “up to three” patients a day next Monday through Wednesday, the Saskatchewan government said in a Friday afternoon update.

These transfers would add to the six COVID-19 patients who moved out east earlier this week, along with the additional three expected over the weekend.

“These plans are continually in motion but they are subject to change and we are committed to providing confirmed information on transfers of the Saskatchewan patients,” said Marlo Pritchard, president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and head of the PEOC, during a COVID-19 technical briefing Friday morning.

He noted the number of transfers could change depending on several factors. These include ICU capacity, aircraft availability, severe weather or other unforeseen events.

There was some confusion early on with Saskatchewan’s plans to move ICU patients out of the province.

Ontario Health told CBC News on Wednesday morning it was prepared to take at least 12 Saskatchewan patients by week’s end — six more than what was initially announced.

However, during a technical briefing later that day, Pritchard would not confirm plans for any more transfers or clarify where Ontario health officials would have gotten that number from.

It came as a surprise to some healthcare workers in both provinces, who voiced concerns on social media that Saskatchewan was pulling back on patient transfers.

The next day, the province issued a statement. It outlined that Saskatchewan’s ICU capacity is assessed on an hourly basis by medical professionals and other experts.

“The issue of out-of-province transfers is an extremely complicated process which requires a high level of a technical consideration, medical oversight and review,” the Thursday morning statement read.

The province also added that unverified social media posts should be “disregarded.”

The statement never did clarify why Ontario health officials thought they would receive a total of 12 ICU patients from the province by the end of the week.

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