Saskatoon nurses at St. Paul’s Hospital raised the red flag Monday after the emergency room became so overcapacity that they deemed it unsafe.
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory said a patient went into cardiac arrest while in the waiting room and nurses couldn’t get the patient into the back of the emergency room because the hospital was over full.
“The registered nurses there felt they had no other choice than to evoke some safety issues that they had,” Zambory said.
The ‘stop the line’ system was implemented by nurses, which is part of the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s violence prevention and mitigation plan, and allows staff to report unsafe or violent incidents to a manager or supervisor, who then has to follow-up regarding the incident.
Zambory said management and occupational health and safety did come down and listen after the stop the line system was implemented, but noted that some of the measures brought forward to fix the issue were in contravention.
“The ‘stop the line’ was a desperate attempt for the registered nurses who didn’t know what else to do. They’d been pushed that far, to put that kind of call out. It has not done anything to alleviate the situation.”
Zambory made it clear that no nurse walked out of St. Paul’s Hospital, noting that they can’t refuse to give care.
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She said this is nothing new in that hospital, saying beds are having to be placed in hallways and waiting rooms, resulting in people having to wait hours, and possibly even days for care.
“This situation has only gotten worse since yesterday and continues on this morning,” she said Tuesday.
Zambory called the Saskatoon Capacity Pressure Action Plan an “abysmal failure.”
“Everything that they announced in there was actually old news. It has not translated to the front line, and it’s only continued to get worse at St. Paul’s emergency, throughout the hospital, and in other areas of health-care in Saskatoon.”
The capacity pressure action plan, which was announced in November 2023, listed a range of actions that aim to improve conditions in Saskatoon’s hospitals, with steps being implemented anywhere between 30 days and six months from the announcement.
“We really are calling upon the health authority, the government, to do something that actually is going to translate to the front line and isn’t some sort of cobbled together action plan that is old news, some of it before COVID-19, that has never translated to the front line.”
Zambory said the emergency room was the “canary in the coal mine,” and that other aspects of health care are facing issues as well.
She said a system-wide approach is needed to address this overcapacity issue.
Another hospital in the city, Saskatoon City Hospital, faced an emergency room closure on Jan. 2 due to lack of staffing, but Zambory said she couldn’t see Saskatchewan’s second largest emergency room ever closing its doors for any amount of time.
“Our registered nurses are there wanting to give care, but it’s become untenable. So we should never think that’s the only way to solve an issue, is to actually lock the doors. If that’s where we are headed, that’s not the right thing to do.”
She said too many people in Saskatoon and the surrounding area are reliant on that hospital, saying something else needs to happen, but it needs to happen right now.
“We can’t wait any longer for something to happen that is going to actually start to make a difference on the frontline.”
She said an instantaneous fix is not possible at this point, saying there is too much damage to the system, but said frontline nurses need to be involved in the conversation on how to fix it.
Global News has reached out to SHA and received a statement.
“The Saskatchewan Health Authority acknowledges that current hospital capacity pressures create a difficult environment for patients who are seeking care in our emergency departments. This is why we launched the Saskatoon Capacity Pressure Action Plan, to address the immediate pressures facing hospital capacity in Saskatoon.”
“The SHA thanks the public for its support and patience with our care teams as they continue to work on addressing capacity issues. We also extend our appreciation to all staff, paramedics and physicians for their continued dedication and commitment to providing safe patient care,” SHA said.
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