Just a few weeks after the initial closure of rural emergency departments as a part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s (SHA) COVID-19 surge plan, the SHA has announced the departments will reopen starting in mid-June.
According to an announcement by the SHA, they will be targetingto re-open emergency departments to previous levels of service in nine communities over the next four to six weeks.
The affected communities were Kerrobert, Herbert, Preeceville, Davidson, Wolseley, Arcola, Biggar, Leader and Oxbow. The SHA expects the first reopening will be Arcola in mid-June, with others to follow.
SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said the original plan was to create 12 COVID-19 free facilities within the 12 designated areas. Additionally, it was to free up capacity, train staff and ensure cohorting was done in those facilities to be better prepared in the event of a COVID-19 surge.
Premier Scott Moe said during a press conference on Tuesday there may have been a public perception that the emergency rooms would be permanently closed, which caused general concern.
“These have never been intended to be permanent closures. They have been temporary closures to allow the SHA as a whole to transition into a more holistic response to a COVID-19 surge,” said Moe.
Moe said he shares concerns with the public who have commented on the closure of emergency rooms in rural communities.
“I understand our health system has had to make some difficult decisions to prepare for the potential and possible surge of COVID-19 in our hospitals,” said Moe.
“Thanks to the actions of Saskatchewan people, our province has been able to avoid the kind of pressure in our hospital system that we have seen in other places of this nation,” he added.
Health Minister Jim Reiter said they could have done a better job communicating the point of the temporary closures of emergency rooms in rural communities.
“That is not the history of this government, that is not the case with any of these facilities,” said Reiter.
“This was according to the plan all along,” he added.