St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon is so overcrowded with patients that it's not meeting fire code regulations, with beds in the hallways blocking fire exits.
After receiving a complaint, the Saskatoon Fire Department inspected the hospital and met with administrators this week to discuss how hallway crowding issues relate to National Fire Code requirements for safe exits.
"No penalties or fines have been issued at this time," assistant fire chief Yvonne Raymer said in an emailed statement.
The fire code inspection is another sign of the crisis in Saskatchewan health care, said Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory.
"What really has raised the flag for us was when we had members of 14-years-plus experience phone and tell us that they haven't seen it this bad, even through COVID, in St. Paul's Hospital right now, for the overcrowding and the dangerous situation they find themselves in," Zambory said in an interview.
"People need to know what's happening," she said. "We are in trouble deep."
Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambory speaks at a rally held in Regina last month to highlight the province's nursing shortage. (Jessie Anton/CBC)
Nurses at Royal University Hospital have also reported serious overcapacity issues in recent weeks, with more people in the ER than there were beds available, Zambory said.
Crowded hospitals have been cited as a factor in recent gaps reported in ambulance service in the province. When paramedics bring a patient to the hospital, they have to wait with them until there's space available, which can take hours.
Health Minister Everett Hindley said the overcrowding is "not acceptable" and needs to be addressed.
He told reporters at the Legislature that he's having weekly meetings with paramedics and the Saskatchewan Health Authority to hear from front-line health-care providers.
"I know there's a number of ideas and proposals that are being worked on right now, again driven by what we're hearing from front-line health-care providers as to what they seek," Hindley said.
Health Minister Everett Hindley says the overcrowding in Saskatchewan hospitals is unacceptable. (CBC News)
Zambory said she is not seeing any work being done to address nurses' concerns.
"I'm not exactly sure where it is they're working and what solutions they're coming up with, because it's not translating to the front line," she said.
"If it was translating to the front line … every hospital, all the facilities using agencies in this province would not be struggling and collapsing around our ears like they are. So I'm not understanding exactly what he's talking about."