For the second day in a row, Saskatchewan reported “incidental” infections of COVID-19 patients in hospital.

The provincial government made the move to distinguish patients who are admitted for COVID-19-related illness and those who are admitted for other reasons but test positive during routine COVID screening.

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Saskatchewan Health Authority Vice President, Infrastructure, Information and Support Derek Miller said the change was made to provide another way to look at COVID-19-demand across facilities.

“It allows us to have a better understanding of what is the specific COVID demand on our facilities versus the demand that would have actually been there regardless,” Miller said during a press briefing on Thursday.

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Miller added cases labelled as COVID-19-related illness are patients who show COVID-19 symptoms, whereas incidental cases are patients who are asymptomatic.

“There may be occasions where somebody’s status changes, if they weren’t showing symptoms while they were in the hospital and then develop symptoms. The clinical team would make those determinations and might re-classify them,” Miller explained.

As of Friday’s COVID-19 update, of the 105 patients in hospital with COVID-19, 49 are inpatient hospitalizations with COVID-19-related illness and 35 are incidental, asymptomatic infections. Another 10 inpatient hospitalizations have not yet been determined.

Of the 11 patients in ICU with COVID-19, one has an incidental, asymptomatic infection.

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A registered physician and policy analyst called incidental reporting “a complex process.”

“It’s quite possible that the COVID diagnosis begins to play a role in treatment, so it’s something that would have to be reviewed on a day to day basis,” Dr. Dennis Kendel told Global News.

“It isn’t like you’re labelled incidental and you’re incidental for the rest of your time in hospital,” Kendel added.

Kendel is unsure if the incidental reporting “lends a lot of value” to the situation.

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“I think, in all honesty, there was a desire by government to try and keep the numbers as low as possible and I just hope we aren’t wasting a lot of energy and doing something that is for optics purposes as opposed to really making a difference in terms of strain on our health-care system.”

Kendel echoed a statement made by fellow physician Dr. Alexander Wong on Twitter, that the public “shouldn’t get too wrapped up in trying to over interpret these numbers.”

“The fact is you’re in hospital and needing care,” Kendel said.

“I hope this doesn’t become a distractor in terms of public awareness of the situation.”

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With government officials saying they are focusing mostly on hospitalized cases during this wave to make decisions around public health measures, Kendel said this data becomes more important.

“I think it’s important that we understand why we’re doing this differentiation so it isn’t just a gaming process to try and make people less worried,” Kendel said.

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Kendel said the decision to admit a patient is typically multifactorial, meaning there’s a combination of issues impacting their health.

Kendel recalled a time when some individuals were saying they were being treated for pneumonia, not COVID-19, even though pneumonia is known as a complication from contracting COVID-19.

“I just really hope we don’t get into these stupid games where people start to say it really wasn’t COVID, it was something else. That’s a danger.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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