Save lives. Restore mask requirements in Saskatchewan's medical settings now.

Saskatchewan Government and Health Authority Accused of Betraying Commitment to Safety and Patient-Centered Care

Saskatoon, Canada – A recent decision by the Saskatchewan Government and Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to remove masking requirements in healthcare facilities has been met with strong opposition from concerned residents of the province.

According to Robert Clipperton, a spokesperson for Take Action Against COVID, an independent, grassroots pro-public-health group in Saskatchewan, the government’s decision is gross negligence and puts the safety of patients, residents, and healthcare workers at risk. The group has organized an electronic petition with 500 750 signatures and a call-in campaign to SHA, and MLAs involved in the decision, for Saskatchewan residents to express concerns.

“Removing mask requirements in medical settings is by far, the most extreme COVID-19 policy that the Saskatchewan government has enacted since the pandemic began,” said Clipperton. “They have always been negligent with refusing to implement public health measures until a crisis point, and then removing them too soon.”

“But this policy marks a turning point in their policy from negligence and incompetence to active cruelty – to letting COVID rip in hospitals with vulnerable people in them – and among people having to go there for services.”

Clipperton pointed to data that shows that hospital-acquired COVID infections have a much higher fatality rate than among the general population, and have already been a problem in hospitals in Canada, the UK and Australia.

“They must be aware of this data. What should be happening, if anything, is more and better COVID mitigation protocol in medical settings.” 

Clipperton cited examples like upgrading surgical masks to N95s, P100s and other respirator-type masks, and improving air quality in medical settings.

Moreover, Clipperton continued, “this policy destroys equity of access to medical settings for immunocompromised and high-risk patients and visitors.”

“It is one thing to let COVID rip in restaurants and bars – but one thing it seems we used to agree on, no matter where one stood on mandatory policies – was the need to protect the vulnerable. Children who can’t be vaccinated yet. People undergoing chemotherapy. Old folks in Long Term Care homes.”

“The government is now saying essentially that they don’t care. If you are high risk, or medically vulnerable, at your medical stays or appointments, you don’t get to have reasonable freedom from getting an infection which might kill or disable you – tough luck.”

Clipperton was also blunt about government reassurances that removing masks in medical settings was safe. 

“Where is the data that shows that? At the very least, this government – and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, whose autonomy the government has clearly compromised – cannot be allowed to slide by on vague assurances, such as ‘we are in a better place now.’ They surely collect this data – why are they afraid of showing it to us?”

“We ought not to take this government at its word, when just last month, FOIA requests showed that Health Minister Paul Merriman severely downplayed the effects of removing public health measures.”

Clipperton also highlighted the fact that the pandemic is far from over and the province is still experiencing unpredictable waves due to weak leadership and politicization of public health. He emphasized that the decision to remove masking requirements is particularly concerning given what is now more widely known about COVID-19, such as that COVID-19 is an airborne virus, making two-way masking a crucial layer of protection.

Even more alarmingly, it is not uncommon for even mild acute-phase COVID infections to later develop into cases of Long Covid in people, leading not only to persisting COVID symptoms for months or years, but immune system dysregulation and cognitive deficits. Each time one contracts COVID they are rolling the dice with the possibility of Long COVID.

“It should be bedrock common sense: hospitals should not make us sicker. People should not be at risk of death and disability because they need to access healthcare services.”

This move to let COVID-19 transmit more freely in hospitals and medical settings is particularly damaging for immunocompromised and high-risk individuals and equity of access, said Clipperton.

Against the government and SHA’s claims that ‘we are in a much better place’ because of vaccines, said Clipperton, “we have seen this play out so disastrously before. Every time COVID hospitalization, transmission or mortality goes down, they do away with a requirement — and the measures promptly go up again.”

Clipperton emphasized that the Parkside Long Term Care Home disaster in Regina in 2020 is an ominous lesson of what can happen when COVID is allowed to run rampant. “The ombudsman investigation into Parkside found that lack of proper masking was one of main contributing factors and, while we now have access to vaccines, we know protection wanes. It is unbelievable that the government and SHA seem to have learned nothing and are willing to risk a repeat of what was an absolutely devastating course of events early on in the pandemic.”

In addition to putting patients at risk, Clipperton also pointed out that the decision to remove masking requirements also puts healthcare workers and their families in harm’s way.

“Physicians and staff can have vulnerable family members or be at risk themselves,” he said. “The provincial government has received explicit warnings repeatedly about the health and economic harms of Long COVID and has done nothing. This is illegal – workers have a right to know about hazards and employers have a duty to protect them.”

Clipperton also expressed concern for families and visitors to healthcare facilities who may be at risk of exposure to the virus. “Besides being in a position to risk disability or death while supporting a loved one, family and visitors risk being shut out of a system with never-ending outbreaks,” he said.

In conclusion, Clipperton emphasized that access to healthcare is a human right and the decision to remove masking requirements creates unsafe spaces for all, but especially for medically vulnerable patients, staff, and their families. He called on the Saskatchewan Government and SHA to reverse their decision and to demonstrate leadership in the healthcare community by following through on their commitment to safety and patient-centered care.

About Take Action Against COVID
Take Action Against COVID is a grassroots, pro-public-health group dedicated to promoting safe healthcare practices and advocating for the rights of patients, residents, and healthcare workers in Saskatchewan with respect to COVID. More about Take Action Against COVID can be learned on our website:

For more information, contact
Robert Clipperton