Moe and Shahab
© Brandon Harder/Regina Leader-Post
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab
Mere hours after Seniors Minister Everett Hindley held his first COVID-19 briefing Thursday to announce a loosening of restrictions in Saskatchewan care homes by Mother's Day, doctors in the province were hit with a far different message.

The latter came in the weekly Thursday evening "physicians' town hall" held by the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) that proclaimed the only area of controllable COVID-19 transmission risk in this province this past week was confined to the Cumberland region in the province's far northeast. The southern three-quarters of the province's grainbelt was categorized as areas where there is a "high likelihood that COVID transmission is not controlled."

As reported by the CBC's Guy Quenneville, doctors view the Thursday night event this way: "This was a devastating, heartbreaking meeting. We need the public to know how dire the situation is."

But even more stunning is that neither Premier Scott Moe, Health Minister Paul Merriman nor Hindley felt inclined to share this news Thursday. In fact, had the presentation not been leaked, it's quite likely the Saskatchewan Party government would have downplayed it and not released it for days as was the case last week when Merriman suggested similar dire warnings emerging from the town hall were simply "modelling projections."

Thursday's slide presentation also included dire SHA warnings that the transmission problem is so severe ICUs will have to start triaging people and doctors will have to make heartbreaking decisions based on the likelihood of survival — the exact concern raised by SHA chief medical officer Dr. Susan Shaw earlier this week.

Yet the government's big news/communication strategy was trotting out Hindley to talk about opening up nursing homes so we can visit grandma on Mother's Day.

This mixed messaging is simply stunning. It should be unacceptable to everyone in this province, including the Saskatchewan Party government that should see it as unproductive to their own endgame of a re-Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.

A year ago, everyone seemed on board with opening up the province. We now see government spew up one message for the masses and another for doctors.

Sure, there's going to be division in politics — especially in a province like this one that jerks between the social democratic NDP and the free-enterprise alternative. Ironically, in this place of vast, flat and fertile prairie, finding middle ground to till has never been easy.

But didn't we learn 59 years ago during the doctors' strike/Medicare implementation that politics and best medical practice must be separated?

We can't continue to function with this level of mistrust and, frankly, misinformation we are getting from the government on the COVID-19 file. (Yes, it's misinformation when you're not getting all the information you need.)

In Friday morning's question period, NDP Opposition Leader Ryan Meili — who clearly found his voice this week by speaking less as a politician and more as one of Saskatchewan's many angry doctors — chided Moe for communication that is "confusing, misinformed and unclear" and that has now become "dangerous."

Meili went on to ask the premier if he "actually believes Saskatchewan's doctors" and asked why "doctors are hearing the truth" while others in the province aren't.

Moe — who ducked reporters later — responded that "hospitalizations are higher than we'd like to see them" and encouraged everyone to follow the rules and "participate in the largest vaccination initiative in the province's history."

"The premier does recognize that these question periods are recorded, does he not?" Meili said in the assembly Friday morning. "These are on the record forever."

Some will disregard this as simply legislature politics, but Meili is surely right that Moe is soft-peddling concerns and sending mixed signals.

Now is the time for bluntness. It's the difference between Moe saying it's "inappropriate" for anti-mask ghouls to be picketing the Regina General Hospital where people are dying in ICUs while Meili called them "idiots."

And even more idiotic is giving doctors one message and the rest of of us another.