From the Toronto Star: As omicron tears through Ontario, the province’s hospitals say they’re facing a new challenge — hundreds of staff absences are forcing them to choose between delaying scheduled medical treatments and calling staff who are in isolation back to work prematurely.  

  • Every day, about 100 staff members are calling in sick to Toronto’s University Health Network hospitals, while 152 employees at one London, Ont., hospital have tested positive for COVID and 400 staff members of Hamilton Health Sciences are in isolation due to COVID exposure.

Gillian Howard, a spokesperson for the University Health Network, told the Star this issue isn’t confined to the network and is a problem across the Greater Toronto Area.

  • Howard said the network, which has around 17,200 staff, will redeploy workers and reduce scheduled care as needed.

The Star reports: “While hospitals are increasingly filling up with COVID-19 patients, there have been proportionally fewer in need of intensive care compared to earlier waves. That means that while there isn’t yet the same demand on staff to manage huge numbers of very ill patients, the sheer number of cases and potential exposures risks forcing more health-care workers into isolation, where they’re unable to help out.”

  • Julia Oosterman, spokesperson for Bluewater Health in Sarnia, which has five per cent of its staff in isolation, said:  “As of yesterday we started calling staff on vacation to see if they can come back to work — it’s not a desirable outcome. They really really need and deserve their vacation.”

Oosterman added that hospitalized patients are increasingly people who have refused to get vaccinated, “many of whom don’t believe in traditional science.”

  • Said Oosterman: “[T]he tonality within the hospitals, the level of discourse, has significantly changed since the first wave … It’s really unfortunate because the whole team is exhausted and coming in on their vacation.”

Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said the association is collaborating with healthcare authorities to figure out a way to ensure patient care isn’t compromised due to reduced staffing levels.

  • Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist at McGill University said all provinces are going to be faced with tough decisions on whether to allow exposed hospital staff to return to work early.

He told the Canadian Press last week: “We are in a fixed, limited number of health-care workers in every province, because there’s no reservoir or pool of health-care workers that we can sort of depend on to bail us out here.”

Read the Star’s full story here.

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