The Saskatchewan NDP is pressing the government for answers regarding the province’s preparation and handling of recent COVID-19 outbreaks.
On Monday morning, NDP leader Ryan Meili said he wants to know how Health Minister Jim Reiter co-ordinated the situation when dealing with outbreaks in communities like La Loche and Lloydminster.
Meili is wondering if there was a gap in communication.
“If he didn’t hear right away, why that would be? Or if he did hear right away, why that wouldn’t have been communicated right away? What’s going on with communications within this government,” asked Meili. “At the same time, what’s happening with the overall SHA approach.”
He said the minister should provide an answer for what he called “recent communications breakdowns” in the handling of the La Loche outbreak and the delay in notifying the public about the Lloydminster outbreak.
Meili noted that when the government claimed the La Loche outbreak was “under control”, it in fact wasn’t.
“That message was also very troublesome because if you’re talking to the community saying it’s under control, in this sort of don’t-worry-about-it fashion, then you’re downplaying the seriousness of the issue.”
Meili added that the outbreak in La Loche has since spread to Prince Albert, Beauval and other communities in the northwest.
He mentioned that the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) said the Ministry of Health was notified of the Lloydminster outbreak sometime between April 26 and 27, but the public was not notified until April 29.
During a teleconference on Monday afternoon, Health Minister Jim Reiter noted that Prairie North Health Region’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu was mistaken when they said the ministry was notified of the situation in Lloydminster on the night of April 26, but it was actually on the 27th.
Reiter added that the email was sent on Monday night and it would have been seen by the ministry on Tuesday, April 28. He was informed at about 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night after requesting more information on the outbreak; that is when the chief of staff informed Minister of Rural and Remote Health Warren Kaeding that there was an outbreak in Lloydminster. Reiter went on to say that he notified executive council and Premier Scott Moe on Wednesday morning.
He admitted he would have liked these situations to be handled in a more timely manner.
“Could we have done better in this case? Yeah absolutely I think we could’ve under my responsiblity,” said Reiter. “Certainly I’ll accept some responsibility. We’re going to endeavour to make sure it is.”
However Reiter feels there hasn’t been unnecessary delays between different levels in the Ministry of Health when evaluating other outbreaks. He said a good example of this is the situation in Prince Albert when they notified the public of the cases at Victoria Hospital in “a number of hours.”