Younger people being hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, says ICU doctor

·3 min read
Dr. Susan Shaw is optimistic about the future but thinks the next few weeks will be challenging.   (Shutterstock / Chaikom - image credit)
Dr. Susan Shaw is optimistic about the future but thinks the next few weeks will be challenging. (Shutterstock / Chaikom - image credit)

More young people are showing up in Saskatchewan hospitals with COVID-19.

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said during a news conference Thursday about variants of concern that out of the 35 ICU admissions in the past month, only one person was older than 70, and that younger people are also being admitted with more serious conditions.

Dr. Susan Shaw, Saskatchewan Health Authority chief medical officer, said she's seeing a shift to more people in their 20s, 30s and 40s being admitted to hospital.

Shaw works in the ICU in Saskatoon and recently completed a rotation there.

"We are seeing that shift that we were worried about, that we will see younger people as a second version of pandemic comes through with the new variant," she told CBC's Saskatoon Morning.

Shaw has worked in the intensive care unit for decades, but she says her last rotation may have been one of the hardest she's had to endure.

She said ICU workers are looking after more patients overall and more who are severely ill.

"When I'm looking at a young mother and I'm trying to explain to her family how sick this person is, I know what's ahead for her," she said.

"I know that it's going to be a long case, a long, long stint in the ICU, and that all these favourable factors that she has — her age or her pre-existing health — doesn't mean that she's going to have an easy recovery, and it doesn't mean that she's going to come out of the ICU unharmed."

Dr. Susan Shaw talks to Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski

Shaw said COVID causes long-term symptoms like fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and aches and pains.

"I'm looking ahead for that young person in front of me going, I don't know what your future is."

Shaw said patients used to be getting tested early in the illness with relatively mild symptoms, and then had the opportunity to be monitored and followed.

Now, she said, people are arriving at the hospital with severe illness and then discovering they have COVID-19.

"Young people are presenting to hospital and going straight to the intensive care unit with profound, extreme, life threatening oxygen failure," she said.

Shaw said this looks like a more severe disease than the cases doctors saw last year. She said "it's frustrating and it's sad" to see younger people in hospital beds, because it's preventable.

"It's going to get worse. We know that because we have increasing cases in the province. So for me as an ICU doctor, I know it's going to get worse and we are planning for more patients."

More cases means more hospital admissions and more ICU admissions, which Shaw said mean more deaths. She said she hopes her predictions are wrong.

"I am glad that we have increased public health measures and I encourage everybody to really take those into their heart and use them to guide their daily actions."