The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) is asking families to review pain management options with their care providers due to a North America-wide shortage of epidural catheter kits.

The supply-chain issue, explained by the SHA in a release, can impact the ability of care teams to provide labour epidural analgesia for pregnant women, epidural anesthesia for cesarean sections, and epidural analgesia and anesthesia for intraoperative and postoperative use in general.

Kits are used primarily by anesthesiologists to manage pain in women during labour and delivery. They are also used to provide postoperative pain management for major abdominal and chest surgeries. 

“Our patients are at the centre of everything we do,” said Dr. Mateen Raazi, SHA Provincial Department Head, Anesthesiology. “We are committed to the best possible stewardship of the resources available to us in these challenging times in order to provide the highest quality care for our patients. There are many ways we can help with safe and effective pain management for our patients having surgery and for our pregnant patients in labour.”

The SHA says it is working to secure more supplies and ensure care teams are optimally using existing supplies. 

“During pregnancy, there are several medical considerations where the use of an epidural improves the health and well-being of both mother and baby. It is critical that supply is maintained to reduce risks for these patients,” stated the SHA release. 

Alternative pain control methods the SHA recommends include medications through spinal, inhaled, intravenous, or intramuscular injection. Pain may also be reduced through local anesthetic nerve blocks, therapeutic touch, breathing, and positioning techniques. 

“The primary goal of the obstetrical care team continues to be safe and compassionate care for our patients, newborns, and their families,” said Dr. Joanne Sivertson, SHA Provincial Department Head, Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We are committed to working as a team to provide therapeutic management and pain control that is individualized to the needs and goals of the patient. We are working to ensure equitable access to pain control and to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. We are keeping your care providers informed as developments occur.”

The SHA thanks everyone for their patience and understanding as their teams work to provide care across the province.