Infected healthcare employees may continue working amid “critical” staffing shortages
Some “essential” workers who come down with Covid-19 in Quebec, Canada will be permitted to remain on the job, the province’s health minister said, citing an “urgent” need for nurses and healthcare staff amid a surge in cases.
Quebec’s top health official, Christian Dube, told reporters on Tuesday that the government’s hand was forced in the decision to allow some infected employees to continue working under certain conditions, “according to a list of priority and risk management.”
“If we have the choice, we wouldn’t do it, but our situation is urgent and critical in the short term,” Dube said. “This is the best alternative to not providing care.”
“The reality is that we have more and more sick people and fewer and fewer nursing staff. This is what we have to do if we want our society to continue to safely function,” he added.
Public health director Horacio Arruda also explained that the Health Ministry had created an “order of priority” to help employers determine which workers to keep on the job and which to send home. A health staffer with no symptoms, or an individual whose family has tested positive but who hasn’t received their own result, could be stationed in an area with Covid-positive patients, Arruda said, citing an example.
“If someone’s not in good shape, we won’t send them to work,” he added.
Canada’s second most populous province, Quebec has seen a new wave of infections with the rise of the Omicron strain, the latest ‘variant of concern’ designated by the World Health Organization. The region has set new records in recent days, counting nearly 13,000 new cases on Monday alone – the highest single-day tally for any province in Canada, according to Reuters.
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The spike in cases has stressed local health facilities, Dube said, adding that “Omicron’s contagion is so exponential, that a huge number of personnel have to be withdrawn – and that poses a risk to the network capacity to treat Quebecers.”
In addition to the more permissive guidelines for “essential” employees, the health minister also announced that Quebec will offer a third coronavirus vaccine dose to anyone aged 18 and older starting on January 4.
While provincial officials previously weighed a vaccine mandate for health workers, in line with similar policies brought across Canada, it decided against it due to staffing shortages. Ontario has been the only province to follow that move, also pointing to labor shortfalls.
Quebec has taken other more dramatic actions aiming to stem the spread of Omicron in recent days, even ordering the closure of gyms, casinos and bars last week, while also limiting the size of gatherings to just six people.