Feb. 1, 2022

News release: Saskatchewan’s physicians express alarm over premier’s letter

Physicians are extremely disappointed with the premier’s recent statements on vaccines, vaccinations, and the possible removal of some public health measures, according to Dr. Eben Strydom, president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA).

“Saskatchewan’s physicians are alarmed at these statements and are imploring this government to stay the course to mitigate the impact of the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Dr. Strydom said.

The province’s physicians are taking issue with comments about vaccines made by Premier Scott Moe. The premier penned a letter this past weekend casting doubt on the effectiveness of vaccines and vaccinations. On Monday, he reiterated the government’s intention to imminently lift the proof of vaccination system.

“The premier’s statements continue to ignore the advice of medical experts at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached their highest levels since the start of the pandemic,” Dr. Strydom said. “It shows no empathy for the thousands of health-care workers who are bearing the unrelenting weight of caring for such high volumes of COVID-19 patients and the impact that has on other health services.”

COVID-related hospitalizations reached 363 on Monday, Dr. Strydom noted. “Mr. Moe’s letter on the weekend could scarcely come at a worse time. Everyone should be doing all we can to drive that number down, to prevent further spread of the Omicron variant, to keep people as safe as possible, and to prevent further stress on an already overly strained health-care system.”

Dr. Strydom said the priority of provincial government leadership should be on mitigating COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.

He said the government needs to send a consistent and accurate message on the effectiveness of vaccines. It should acknowledge that people who are unvaccinated are far more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than the fully vaccinated. It should promote every eligible citizen be boosted, as evidence has shown this third dose is about 60 per cent effective against symptomatic infection; and around 90 per cent effective in reducing the severity of illness. Proof of vaccination protocols should be maintained as these measures provide a degree of safety for people as they go about their daily lives, Dr. Strydom said.

Yesterday, the premier doubled down on the government’s intention to lift proof of vaccination and negative test requirements. Dr. Strydom feels strongly that the government should only begin to consider lifting measures when there are steady declines in COVID cases and wastewater transmission data, when hospitalizations fall into the low double digits, and ICUs have fewer than 10 COVID-19 patients.

“It is too soon to loosen, or remove, public health measures,” Dr. Strydom said. “Why take that chance now? Why further strain the health care system and those who work in it, after all that we have been through?”

“Rather than picking an arbitrary date for changing public health measures, the government should use clear goals and targets as the triggers. Physicians expect and citizens deserve government decisions be based on sound medical science, not personal preference or political expediency.”

The premier’s statements continue to ignore the advice of medical experts at a time when COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached their highest levels since the start of the pandemic. It shows no empathy for the thousands of health-care workers who are bearing the unrelenting weight of caring for such high volumes of COVID-19 patients and the impact that has on other health services.

Dr. Eben Strydom

President, Saskatchewan Medical Association

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