Responding to critics, Sask. minister jokes hospital information is ‘hidden’ online and then gives out wrong link

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman defended against accusations that the province isn’t transparent about hospital capacity, by reading out the website address where users can see emergency room wait times — but the link didn’t work.

Merriman read out the website link at the Saskatchewan legislature Thursday monring, after the NDP health critic, Vicki Mowat, accused the government of giving people “as little information as possible” about the state of health care.

Mowat urged Merriman to put information about hospital capacity on the Saskatchewan Health Authority website. Merriman joked the information is hiding on the internet.

“This is hidden on the internet, and I’ll read it out on the record,” Merriman responded.

Merriman read the link:

The link didn’t go anywhere useful.

The website Merriman read out takes users to a page saying, “Sorry, we couldn’t find that.”

Later in the day, a Saskatchewan government representative clarified that the link needed a “.pdf” on the end.

The discussion followed an image that was leaked on Wednesday, showing just how overwhelmed the hospitals are.

The image, obtained by the NDP, is the SHA’s Critical Care Dashboard on April 25. It shows four Saskatchewan hospitals were all on bypass — a status that indicates a hospital is so full, it can’t take on any more patients.

“It means that it’s closed,” Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, told CTV News.

The chart says the affected hospitals were Saskatoon’s RUH and St. Paul’s, as well as hospitals in Yorkton and Swift Current — that often treats rural patients.

“It’s a very dangerous situation for patients … Can you imagine driving into Yorkton after being ill and finding out that you now have to head to Regina and hope like hell that the General isn’t on bypass,” Zambory said.

“This is just getting more and more absurd by the day.”

Zambory said she wasn’t surprised to see four Saskatchewan hospitals all on bypass at once, given the health care staff shortages.

“What’s more disappointing and shocking is the fact that it was kept a secret, who really knew about it?” Zambory told CTV News.

Merriman defended Saskatchewan’s hospital capacity.

“We have increased our ICU capacity from 79 to 85 … we also brought in 10 high acuity beds in Regina at the General to match the ones up in Saskatoon,” Merriman said.

The province has said it’s working on recruiting more health care workers to alleviate pressures in the health care system.

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