Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that the province would allow some health workers tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working.
Dubé announced Tuesday in Montreal as the province faces an increase in cases driven by the Omicron variant and a rapid increase in hospital admissions.
“What we are primarily trying to avoid … is to overwhelm the health network,” he said in French.
“We are stuck in a load where hospitalizations are rising and more and more health workers have to take time off. In other words, we have more and more sick people and fewer and fewer people left to take care of them. ”
Dubé said that last week, 4,000 health workers were absent due to COVID-19, and that number jumped to 7,000 on Tuesday, when admissions peaked at 702, including 115 patients in intensive care units.
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“In previous waves, we wanted to identify and eliminate vulnerable workers as quickly as possible. With the current level of vaccination, we have to do something else – we have no choice,” he said, adding that 98 percent of healthcare professionals are vaccinated.
“We made the decision that under certain conditions, positive staff will be able to continue working under a list of priorities and risk management.”
Dubé gave few details on what these conditions entailed, but said decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis.
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Dubé said the hope is to extend the new measure to include all major workers, not just healthcare professionals, with more details to be announced in the coming days.
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Dubé said the new measure was necessary and introduced to avoid further delays in operations and diagnostic procedures and to avoid a situation where the province can only provide critical care.
Despite Dubé’s assurances about ongoing discussions with trade unions on the new initiatives, many are already speaking out against them.
In a press release, the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN), which represents 120,000 members in both the public and private networks, said there are other measures the government could take instead.
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The association calls for on-site COVID-19 screening for employees, minor staff changes, stabilization of teams and focus on ventilation in work environments.
“The network is not prepared to face the risks of the government’s decision to bring asymptomatic infected staff back to work,” wrote union president Réjean Leclerc, adding that by endangering workers, the measure also exposes patients who are already vulnerable. with even greater risk.
The Quebec Federation of Nurses (FIQ) agrees.
In a post on Twitter, FIQ said keeping infected but asymptomatic workers at work is too risky.
“FIQ President Julie Bouchard is strongly against it.”
A regional spokesman for the Montreal West Island branch of the FIQ reiterated some of the union’s requests, while also adding a few.
“All we want is proper on-site testing for our healthcare professionals, N95 masks for everyone, whether you work in a hot zone or a cold zone, and for them to put the hot zones and the cold zones back,” he said. Kristina Hoare, suggests that an unfair burden is imposed on staff.
“We are asking these health workers, as we have been asking them for the past year and a half, to give 110 percent, and now we are asking them, in addition to giving 110 percent, to now come in. Sick and do your job.”
Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province’s public health director, said COVID-19 positive health workers could be appointed to work with patients who test positive, get extra protective equipment and not be allowed to have lunch with their colleagues who test negative.
The health authorities noted that the decision was equivalent to choosing the lesser of two bad options.
“We say this is the best alternative compared to not providing care to the people,” Dubé said.
Accelerates the rollout of booster shots
Among other measures that Dubé announced on Tuesday was the acceleration of third-dose booster shots, which provide significantly better protection against the Omicron variant.
As of Wednesday, essential workers – including school staff, public security staff, people working in community organizations providing health and social services, agricultural workers such as food inspectors and those working in slaughterhouses, as well as health workers in the private sector – will be allowed to book appointments on Clic Santé’s website.
From January 4, 2022, booster shots will be gradually available to the general population depending on age group.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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