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Letter to premier from Sask. physicians implores more action to combat COVID-19 in province

A letter to the premier penned by a handful of Saskatchewan physicians and now supported by more than 400 doctors says “lives are on the line” if the government doesn’t do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“It is becoming increasingly clear to us, physicians from across Saskatchewan, that we are losing the battle against this virus,” the letter says. “If more is not done to change our course we are confident that winter will bring overflowing hospitals, canceled surgeries, overwhelmed health-care providers, and needless deaths.”

The writers appreciate that wearing masks is an inconvenience, physical distancing is isolating and escalating restrictions can be damaging to businesses.

“We know that doing more will be difficult for Saskatchewan people. However, the lives of our friends and neighbours are on the line,” the letter says.

Dr. Brent Thoma, one of the writers, told the SMA that he is among a small group of physicians who have been communicating since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We were alarmed by the escalating numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the province and concerned that further intervention was needed to reverse the spread,” said Dr. Thoma, an emergency medicine physician.

“We hoped that raising the alarm would spur the government to take further action. Given the response to the letter, which has now been signed by 402 Saskatchewan physicians, it is clear that our concern regarding the rising number of cases and the need to intervene is shared by our colleagues from across the province.”

The writers included Drs. Carla Holinaty (family medicine), Tamara Hinz (psychiatry), Hassan Masri (intensive care), and others.

The Nov. 12 letter to Premier Scott Moe notes that the number of active COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan has increased 700 per cent, to 1,289, over the past 30 days. Hospitals are filling up from COVID admissions. The writers suggest the new provincial government look to other jurisdictions where interventions have been successful, such as Atlantic Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Korea.

“A common thread in each successful region and country is the clear and consistent leadership and communication of an empathetic government guided by a solid foundation of science and expert medical opinion,” the letter says. It adds the government should do what is needed to reduce the daily COVID case counts, and provide a plan on how it would escalate its response if required.

“Making decisions, even when difficult, is the hallmark of strong leadership. The lives and livelihoods of Saskatchewan people depend upon you,” the letter says.

Dr. Thoma said reaction has been primarily supportive. The letter doesn’t include specific recommendations, but those might be forthcoming if physicians feel the need to draft a second letter, he added.

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