🇨🇦@COVID19Up: For months now, University of Saskatchewan scientists have requested Saskatoon’s COVID-19 hospitalization data from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and provincial Ministry of Health.
The USask group wanted to combine it with the data they track, the amount of SARS-CoV-2 genetic material in the city’s wastewater. With both information sets the scientists would have valuable insight into how the viral load translates into occupied hospital beds, one of the toxicologists who studies wastewater, as well as an epidemiologist, told Global News.
The combined data sets could potentially even enable researchers to predict roughly how many people sick with COVID-19 would need a hospital bed in coming weeks.
It would have been a tool for Saskatchewan’s healthcare system, the toxicologist said. That, in turn, would allow frontline healthcare staff, already burnt out after years of pandemic triage, a chance to prepare or at least to better understand the viral spread that was overwhelming the hospital system with patients.
But government agencies never provided the data.
Emails, obtained by Global News using a freedom of information request, show the USask wastewater team lead researcher toxicologist John Giesy asked various SHA officials repeatedly over four months if his team could access the weekly hospitalization numbers.
Epidemiologist Nazeem Muhajarine said he was surprised to learn hospitalization data are not available to the wastewater researchers.
“We need to be able to provide data threads from different sources at different levels,” Muhajarine said, “to be able to tell not only (the) larger story that pertains to groups of people and places, but (also a) more granular level of detail that that that relates to people like hospitalizations, ICU beds and so on.”