One-third of Prince Albert's critical care beds for kids taken up by COVID patients, says region's top doctor

·2 min read
The medical health officer for the Prince Albert area says it's important for more people to get vaccinated.  (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters - image credit)
The medical health officer for the Prince Albert area says it's important for more people to get vaccinated. (NIAID Integrated Research Facility/Reuters - image credit)

Dr. Khami Chokani became emotional when speaking to Prince Albert city councillors about the state of the city's health-care infrastructure.

Speaking at a council meeting earlier this week, the medical health officer for the Prince Albert region said one-third of the hospital's critical care beds for children were taken up by COVID patients over the weekend.

One of those children was just three months old.

"It's very painful to have that," said Chokani.

"So, if it's taken up by a COVID baby, your other babies, who are, say, premature, don't have a bed."

On Wednesday, the North Central 2 sub-zone, where Prince Albert is located, had 262 active COVID-19 cases. That's more than the Regina region, which had 164.

Chokani estimates the medical system in Prince Albert will be overwhelmed in roughly two weeks if cases continue to mount.

"People will still have heart attacks, people will still have strokes," he said.

"They still do require those beds [even] if those beds are taken up by COVID patients. It means that one more person doesn't have access to that high quality care."

In response to the situation, Prince Albert city council voted in favour of bringing in a mask mandate for all civic facilities. The city is also looking at requiring proof of full vaccination to enter city facilities, but a policy still needs to be developed.

"We hope that will be enough," said Mayor Greg Dionne, speaking to CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition.

"The last thing we want to do is to go back to any kind of lockdown or restrictions on gatherings. So we hope that the masking up will do the trick."

Dionne said the city has traditionally been a major hub for people living in northern Saskatchewan, where the immunization rate continues to be low. He attributes that to the area's high COVID rate.

"They have mobile vaccination centres set up there now to try to combat that," he said.

"That's why we have to take precautions to protect ourselves."

Dr. Chokani said it's essential more people get vaccinated, especially young people. He also said traditional protective measures such as physical distancing and limiting social contacts are still important.

"We have been able to bend that curve [in the past]," he said.

"And what we need [are] just those small actions."

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