Father concerned Sask. Health Authority changes will postpone son's surgery

·3 min read
Bryce Gorman's son, Olin, is awaiting a date for his urgent, but non-emergent, surgery. Saskatchewan Health Authority changes could mean it will be delayed.  (Submitted by Bryce Gorman - image credit)
Bryce Gorman's son, Olin, is awaiting a date for his urgent, but non-emergent, surgery. Saskatchewan Health Authority changes could mean it will be delayed. (Submitted by Bryce Gorman - image credit)

Bryce Gorman held his nearly two-year-old son, Olin, as the Regina father expressed his frustrations about the possibility his son's urgent surgery could be postponed as hospitals struggle with a surge in COVID-19 patients.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority confirmed to CBC News on Friday morning that it is slowing down and pausing non-critical and elective services to reallocate resources to battling COVID-19. CBC News was first made aware of the shift on Thursday after obtaining an internal SHA newsletter.

The health authority's decision to pause elective services is meant to temporarily alleviate the stress health-care workers have been shouldering as case numbers climb — but it comes at a cost to some citizens.

"Now we are losing services in Canadian health-care because there's no room. There's literally no room — there's no hands," said Gorman, a father of three and an advanced care paramedic.

"People are getting reallocated from their normal positions [to] where they don't normally work — in ICU, to work in different wards and stuff like that. And it's negatively impacting people on a great level."

He was expecting a call in the next couple months to finalize a date for his son's surgery, but is now concerned Olin won't be booked before his second birthday.

Janani Whitfield/CBC
Janani Whitfield/CBC

Olin has an undescended testicle, which if left untreated can increase the chance of infertility and testicular cancer, according to the SHA.

Gorman said that doctors advised him to have the surgery done before his year-and-a-half-old son turned two. At that point, the risk of cancer could increase by two to eight times, he was told.

While the surgery hasn't been booked, nor has the date been pushed back, he expects his son will be one of the surgeries put on hold.

Most COVID-19 hospitalizations not fully vaccinated

Gorman is upset because many of the COVID-19 hospitalizations that are currently straining the system are people who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He puts much of the onus on them for jeopardizing his son's surgery.

"What people [have to] realize now is they're taking away services from other people that need them in a hurry, and now they're taking them away from year-and-a-half-year-olds," he said.

As of Saturday, 198 people are in hospital in Saskatchewan with COVID-19. Of that total, 153 (77 per cent) are not fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the province's COVID-19 dashboard.

Submitted by Michelle James
Submitted by Michelle James

Gorman believes some of those people don't understand how their actions impact others.

"It does affect everybody else now, because now at the baseline it is affecting services across the board — and it's not just my little guy," he said.

There were 33,827 patients awaiting surgery as of June 30, according to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, before surgery services returned to seasonal normals in July.

SHA's decision to halt some services

Saskatchewan Health Authority president and CEO Scott Livingstone said in the newsletter obtained by CBC that the health authority employed a similar targeted slowdown in the first wave of the pandemic, and is confident it will be effective now.

But he also acknowledged that slowing down services would "have consequences too."

"The unchecked spread of COVID among this [unvaccinated] 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."

Saskatchewan has the second-lowest rate of vaccinations across Canada, at just over 71 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated, according to CBC's vaccine tracker.

Seventy-eight per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated.

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