The president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses says it appears the Saskatchewan Health Authority doesn't have decision-making authority anymore in how its workforce should be used, after Premier Scott Moe announced the province's COVID-19 response is being centralized through the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.
"And are we going to be still operationalizing as we should, with evidence and medical expertise?" SUN president Tracy Zambory said Thursday.
Earlier that day, Premier Scott Moe announced his plans to centralize the province's COVID-19 response through the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre, an organization that is intended to streamline government response between ministries during what he called the "significant health-care challenge" presented by the pandemic.
The centre will be jointly led by the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health.
Saskatchewan's health-care system has been under significant strain during the fourth wave. Over the last month, the province has slowed down many hospital services in an attempt to free up resources to create more ICU beds.
Moe said the new structure will free up management and administrative resources that could be used to directly treat patients, and is intended to address the challenge of "ensuring that we have the right people, the right equipment and resources in the right place at the right time."
But Zambory questioned whether the public safety agency's leadership has the expertise to manage the pandemic.
"We know that the provincial command has been used for different disasters that have happened in the province, [but] these are disasters that have either been weather-based or due to fire," she said.
"So we're wondering how it is that now we can suddenly switch to the worst pandemic that's ever happened, that involves human beings."
Staff are at the breaking point and patients are already not receiving some of the care they need, Zambory said.
She said she's heard that patients who should be in intensive care units are instead being admitted to medicine wards, because ICUs are full.
"So they're being admitted to the medicine ward without the ability to have that intensive care force put on to them, with all the things that an intensive care unit has, particularly machines and a very highly trained workforce."
Tighter health orders needed: SUN president
Instead of trying to rearrange scarce staff, Zambory said more restrictions would help alleviate the crisis.
"We're creating more and more dangerous situations because there seems to be this refusal to put tighter public health orders on so that we can try to stem the tide of COVID that is ravaging our health-care system," she said.
Large gatherings over Thanksgiving weekend are going to make matters worse, she said.
"We're at the worst point in the pandemic since March of 2020. Yet we have no rules that are going to guide us."
Zambory also took issue with a government press release that described health-care workers as part of ongoing "inventory management."
"When we're described as inventory, care becomes commodified, and where's the humanity in that?"
She said there is a finite number of health-care workers, no matter where you put them.
"We're just shuffling these scarce resources around without any additional measures to slow community spread," Zambory said.
Officials said Thursday it was too early to know how many extra health care personnel would be freed up from the move.