The Saskatchewan NDP called for an explanation from Health Minister Jim Reiter regarding serious gaps in Saskatchewan’s healthcare capacity, with internal memos indicating rising pressures on testing and bed occupancy, and public complaints of immunocompromised patients being left in hallways. NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat and NDP Leader Ryan Meili were joined by Angela McLean, a woman who spoke out last fall after being left in a crowded hallway in the Pasqua Hospital for nearly a week. 

“We’ve had months to prepare the health system for re-opening,” said Mowat. “Minister Reiter has failed to plan for the health system’s needs in a COVID-19 resurgence and now families and patients are paying the price.”

McLean is again raising the alarm about hallway medicine because a close friend who is immunocompromised and severely ill found herself in the same situation: indefinitely admitted to a hallway in the same hospital because of a lack of available beds.

“Last fall Minister Reiter called what happened to me ‘unacceptable’ and promised an investigation. How could we possibly find ourselves back in the same situation?” said Angela McLean, speaking on behalf of her friend who did not want her name used. “He’s had months to prepare for a second wave of COVID-19, so how is it possible that there’s nowhere but a hallway to put someone who is immunocompromised and severely ill, in the middle of a global pandemic?”

McLean says a bed was found for her friend 24 hours after the woman was admitted, but this happened only after she raised the alarm. 

Mowat says the woman’s experience as described is backed up by the SHA Daily Rounds internal newsletter which indicates that the R value for COVID-19 spread is over 2 in many parts of the province and lists several emerging issues, including an increase in bed occupancy concentrated in Saskatoon, increased spread among the younger population, and the fact that “Most testing sites are currently running at maximum capacity.” 

“For years, this government has stretched the health system beyond capacity, endangering patients and leaving families with real worries about their loved ones,” said Meili. “If that’s the ‘normal’ they’re returning to, the warning light is flashing red that the system can’t take the strain. Patients are suffering as a result of Minister Reiter’s failure to do his job. If this is what’s happening now, how can we have any faith the Minister is doing what’s necessary to deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases?”