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Graham Dickson and his partner, Laura Weins, discovered they were expecting a baby on the same day that Saskatchewan declared a state of emergency at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

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The province is now in the fourth wave and 11-month-old Helen, who was born prematurely with medical complications, is unable to receive the care she needs due to pressure on medical care.

Earlier this week, the Saskatoon family showed up for their daughter’s regular physical therapy appointment and was told it would be her last.

“Occupational therapists and physical therapists were reassigned to other locations in response to COVID,” Dickson said in a telephone interview. “It was a bit shocking for us, because it was the last thing we had.”

Helen, who weighs five pounds and three ounces. he was born three weeks earlier.

Physical therapy was helping to strengthen her core muscles. She cannot sit alone and is beginning to hold on to her feet. When I was younger, I couldn’t hold a pacifier in my mouth.

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After numerous tests and exams, parents have been told that he probably has cerebral palsy, Dickson said.

He also has eye problems that may be related.

“She’s cross-eyed and very forward-thinking,” Dickson said. “We had surgery next month to adjust his eyes so he no longer sees twice as much. That was postponed indefinitely. “

So has an MRI that was supposed to give doctors a better understanding of Helen’s motor function problem.

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“We have been told not to hold our breath.”

Saskatchewan faces a shortage of frontline healthcare workers as hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated.

The province, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the provinces, had 343 COVID-19 patients in hospital on Friday. Of them, 71 were in intensive care units.

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The Saskatchewan Party government has reassigned healthcare workers and postponed surgeries and other healthcare services to help with the increase.

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Dickson said she doesn’t know when her daughter will get the help she needs and is concerned about the quality of life that will result.

He said he stays up at night worrying and wondering if she will need to be in a wheelchair.

“It is an overwhelming sense of helplessness. There is nothing I can do to change the situation, and that is accompanied by frustration and anger, “said Dickson.

Dr. Ayisha Kurji, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan, said children are feeling the brunt of the fourth wave of the pandemic, not necessarily from the virus itself, but through canceled surgeries, with no access. to physical therapy and growing mental health problems. .

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He said Dickson’s experience is not unique. Physical therapists in rural areas have been reassigned to help with acute care since almost the beginning of the pandemic, before Helen was born.

“It’s news now that it’s happening in Saskatoon. But there are (rural) children who at the beginning of the pandemic were able to walk and then they did not have access to therapy and now they cannot walk alone, ”Kurji said.

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“It’s huge. It’s devastating. It makes me angry and it breaks my heart, because this is his whole life ahead of him and now he’s going to change.”

Dickson said early intervention can help Helen. But you don’t know when you can get the care you need.

“We are a community. We’re neighbors. We are all being impacted by this, ”he said. “And the people who are paying the price are the most vulnerable, like my daughter.”

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