More medical imaging, surgical services available Tuesday: Saskatchewan Health Authority

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is resuming more medical imaging and surgical services next Tuesday, including some elective surgeries.

SHA facilities are operating at about half of their pre-COVID-19 surgical capacities. Over the next few weeks, capacity is expected to expand to up to 70 per cent.

The SHA also hopes to make 90 per cent of medical imaging services, like MRIs and CT scans, available during the second phase of its resumption plan. The availability of medical imaging services is already nearing that target.

“The resumption services will work as aggressively as possible to prioritize those folks that have had their procedures postponed,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said.

“We will be working as quickly as possible to address their healthcare needs, but under a COVID world … we just simply can’t work at the same pace.”

He noted patients will inevitably face longer wait times and will have to take additional precautionary steps while receiving care.

Health care services will undergo a rigorous safety check before reopening.

Specialty clinics are also set to open during Phase 2, including those that provide testing for eyes, cardiac stress and sleep disorders.

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Each phase of the four-phase resumption plan is anticipated to last two to three weeks, Livingstone said, giving health officials time to monitor cases and determine whether it’s safe to move forward.

Since the SHA started to roll out its plan on May 19, harm reduction, rehabilitation, immunization and chronic disease management services have resumed, among others.

Virtual care continues to be offered across the province, with more than 122,000 appointments delivered virtually since the start of the pandemic, Livingstone said.

Field hospitals an ‘insurance plan’

Health Minister Jim Reiter said work on field hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon is ongoing, should there be a surge in cases.

“It’s now nearing the point where if needed, work could be triggered to quickly make these field hospitals operational,” Reiter said.

“While we hope we never have to use them, these facilities will, in effect, be our insurance policy allowing us to effectively treat COVID-19 patients without having to once again scale back on surgeries and other important health services.”

The two hospitals are estimated to cost about $8 million together, Livingstone said, including construction and equipment, which can be redeployed to other facilities. If the hospitals have to open in the future, he said the largest expenditure will be staffing.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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