Staffing challenges linked to surge in COVID-19 cases affecting public services – Stettler Independent

Public sectors across the country are facing staffing shortages as Canada continues to deal with record numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations linked to the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.

Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said Thursday that about 20,000 health care workers were absent because they had tested positive or had been exposed to the virus. The government was working with unions to find more staff to care for around 2,500 COVID-19 patients, he added.

Health officials reported another 1,953 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Thursday, an increase of nearly 12% from the previous day. More than 400 patients have entered a hospital in the past 24 hours and 212 have been discharged. Officials said there were 207 patients in intensive care, an increase of 16.

Also in Quebec, four federal prisons were “very close” to experiencing staffing shortages as more workers tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are very close to it, but we are not there yet. And I hope we don’t go there,” said Mario Guilmette, vice-president for the Quebec region of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

Guilmette said the Correctional Service of Canada is working on a protocol to use if federal prisons in the province are understaffed. If the protocol is introduced, it means workers who are considered close contacts of someone who tested positive for COVID-19 could be asked to return to work after self-isolating for eight days instead of 10.

Correctional Service spokeswoman Marie Pier Lecuyer said in a statement that the agency did not have to return staff members who tested positive to work until they were fully recovered.

In Ontario, outbreaks in long-term care homes were causing staff absences of 20-30% in some areas.

Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips said there were outbreaks Thursday in 186 homes in 30 of Ontario’s 34 public health units.

He said his ministry has been in contact with homes struggling with staff as the Omicron variant forces people into self-isolation.

“Staffing in long-term care remains a concern,” Phillips said during a virtual press conference on a local jobs program. “This is an area that we are in daily contact with individual homes (approximately).”

The minister’s office did not immediately provide a specific figure on the number of additional workers deployed to help hard-hit homes.

The president of a union representing long-term care workers in the province spoke of the desperate measures taken to rally workers.

“Because Ontario has failed to plan, over 1,000 nursing home staff are on sick leave right now, forcing nursing homes to desperately recruit from fast food chains. “said Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU Healthcare.

Homes have asked fast food workers to replace kitchen staff who cannot work, she said.

The isolation due to the resurgence of cases of the Omicron variant was also putting pressure on some police and public transport services.

Winnipeg Transit was using alternate operators and overtime to cover shifts, but the city said some routes would still be affected.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t able to cover all shifts. To lessen the impact on the overall service, we had to cancel some races,” said Jason Shaw, Director of the City of Winnipeg Emergency Operations Center.

Ontario’s GO Transit announced this week that a temporary reduction in train and bus service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton areas was set to begin within days due to staffing shortages.

With 170 employees on leave due to COVID-19, the Winnipeg Police Service declared an internal state of emergency on Wednesday. Police departments in Edmonton and Calgary have warned of staffing issues after a growing number of employees tested positive or went into isolation.

—Brittany Hobson, The Canadian Press