After three years, COVID has gotten to a point where it's taken a backseat in most people's lives and people can take a look at the pandemic in the rearview mirror.

For those in healthcare, it's been an especially tough time, with a lot of changes and challenges coming quickly.

It's also a time for the Saskatchewan Health Agency to look back on what worked, what didn't, and what could be taken forward.

Candace Kopec, the Interim Primary Healthcare Director for Southeast 9, says that many of the problems in the area were felt province-wide.

"I think healthcare in the Southeast is no different than healthcare across the rest of Saskatchewan and Canada for that matter.  You know, we did see outbreaks and facilities, we saw shortages of staff and positions due to the outbreaks. So dealing with those shortages and really working to be able to maintain our healthcare services throughout the pandemic (was a challenge). "

One problem specific to rural areas was a lack of trained staff to pull from when needed.

"We have sometimes fewer numbers in rural facilities, so fewer people to draw on.  So I think our relief staff might be less," said Kopec, "So just the ability to staff our facilities might be a little bit more challenging in rural areas."

Kopec says that'll be the SHA's focus heading into the future, as they look to make sure those positions are filled.

"Success in the future definitely depends on recruitment and retaining the staff that we have and relying on some of those incentives that we're seeing across the province to be able to maintain our facilities."

As the pandemic is ending, Roberta Wiwcharuk, Executive director of acute care for the southeast, says it was a good reminder of the importance of some current policies.

"I would say that, I mean we always follow infection prevention and control guidelines and that's always in place for us. But I think during the pandemic, we really learned the importance of infection control practices and ensuring that we're adhering to them. So whether that is hand hygiene, masking, or physical distancing, I think it really emphasized the importance of infection prevention and control practices for us. "