‘It is very bad’: Regina doctors say the situation in COVID-19 ICUs is dire

REGINA — Two Regina doctors are painting a grim picture of the reality inside COVID-19 ICUs as Saskatchewan’s capital city continues to report record intensive care admissions.

COVID-19 patients young and old are filling up intensive care beds in both of Regina’s hospitals.

“We’re seeing younger individuals, people with no medical history or medical comorbidities, families being admitted together, families of essential workers and essential workers,” Dr. Eric Sy, a critical care physician at Regina’s General Hospital, told CTV News.

There are 47 patients in Saskatchewan ICUs with COVID-19 on Monday. The province has set a new record high for ICU patients each of the past three days.

The rise is being fuelled mostly by 31 patients in Regina ICUs.

Dr. Sy said the situation has worsened over the past two to three weeks as case numbers in the Queen City started to rise.

“The situation is substantially worse than before, the COVID-19 variants of concern – particularly B.1.1.7 – is a lot more contagious and transmissible and it’s effecting younger people with greater effect,” Dr. Sy said. “Unfortunately, that means that there’s a lot of young people that are sick on ventilators and life support machines. And that’s going to translate to some people not surviving.”

Regina has topped 100 cases for 13 of the past 21 days, including over 110 cases every day so far in April.

The city is just shy of its record high for active cases from the second wave in December (1,179 on Dec. 15) with 1,121 as of Monday.

During the pandemic, hospitalizations have lagged a few weeks behind cases, which has healthcare workers fearing the worst is still to come.

“We’re in a situation now that we’ve never been in during the course of the pandemic,” said Dr. Alex Wong, an infectious disease physician in Regina. “What we’re seeing here in Regina is going to be mirrored across the rest of the province, it’s really only a matter of time and it’s impossible for us to know at this point in time how much worse it’s going to get for us.”

Dr. Wong said the province is approaching a situation where triaging patients could become a reality.

“As the numbers continue to increase further and further, there’s nowhere for people to necessarily go and it’s going to be more and more challenging to manage them in the system,” he said.

“This is our reality and it is very real and it is very bad.”

The third wave is hitting essential workers the hardest and Dr. Wong is calling for the province to begin vaccinating them as quickly as possible.

“We anticipate that the supply [of vaccines] is going to be less of a concern and less of an issue in the next week or two and so we can prioritize frontline workers while at the same time continuing to vaccinate by age, it’s not an either or proposition anymore,” he said.

Sick leave pay and isolation supports are also going to be critical moving forward, according to Dr. Wong.

The main message from both doctors is to just stay home.

“Modelling data suggests that the current measures with vaccinating along will not be sufficient to control this surge,” Dr. Sy said.

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