Experts say the largest hospitals in Ottawa say they can call in to work symptomatic health care workers with COVID-19 should their staffing crisis become severe – a policy move that has hit hospitals across the continent. Omicron is making the midst of the boom.
An internal document dated January 5 by an Ottawa hospital outlines the decision-making process for allowing health care workers to return to work when they have been or have been exposed to COVID-19. She goes.
The hospital says that “if it is exceptionally important to have an operation,” workers who test positive for COVID-19 can be asked to come to work, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.
If approved on a case-by-case basis, employees must work under its “work self-isolation” measure, which means they will have to be tested daily and self-isolate in and out of work – such as eating and taking breaks, away from coworkers and family, commuting to work in a private vehicle or on public transport, wearing PPE, and staying two meters away from everyone “other than directly providing care.”
“Work self-isolation is not a staffing option and should only be used as a last resort when there is a clear risk to the patient’s care (ie the risk of a staff member not returning to potentially exposing patients). higher than the risk),” the document states.
Nurses who spoke to CBC expressed concern over the policy, as they could run the risk of infecting vulnerable patients, should it become a reality.
“It goes against everything that we do as nurses,” said an Ottawa hospital nurse, who agreed to not be named because of her concern that her job would be if she spoke publicly. may be in danger.
“Our whole job is to protect the public and we don’t have to do that anymore… we can’t care for patients safely.
“We’re just gonna come to work and it’s like roulette.”
As of last week, hundreds of Ottawa health care workers were off work as a result of COVID-19 infection or exposure. The hospital said 125 employees are out of work as they have tested positive for COVID-19.
“I don’t know if I can be on my own when someone is sick, if it comes back that I took care of them, they got sick and then they went to the ICU,” the nurse said. “I’m not sure if I’d want to be a nurse after that.”
He also asked what legal protection they would get for infecting a patient during work.
Only in ‘extreme circumstances’, says hospital
A spokesman for Ottawa Hospital (TOH) said in an email that the decision would only be made in “extreme circumstances” when the risk to the patient from the absence of health care workers outweighs the risk to the infected worker. COVID-19.
“It is important to note that TOH does not have to bring in any COVID-19 positive staff,” the spokesperson said.
CBC has contacted all major hospitals in Ottawa and asked if they are implementing a similar policy.
A Montfort Hospital spokesperson said it also has measures in place that “allow COVID-19 positive staff to be recalled to work,” but have yet to resort to it.
“That said, if it becomes necessary to maintain essential activities, this is an approach that can be considered,” the hospital said in an email.
Queensway Carleton, CHEO and Breuere Hospitals confirmed they have a similar policy.
Quebec announced in late December that it would allow infected health care workers to work to protect hospital capacity.
Across the border, health care workers with symptoms such as COVID-19 and mild colds are also allowed to work in the US, as the Centers for Disease Control updated its guidelines late last month to address staff shortages among Omicron. how to reduce
Policy ‘unusual’ but necessary, experts say
“It’s very new,” said Doug Angus, a health care policy and management expert and professor at the University of Ottawa.
He said these policies are unprecedented in the health care system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and if hospitals cannot provide care due to staff shortages, there does not appear to be any other solution in the short term.
“It is not normal. The situation has arisen only out of absolute necessity,” he said. “It’s the traditional ‘between a rock and a hard place’ and I think the health care system … is trying to do the best it possibly can.”
Angus said that as hospitals transition into calling sick workers, they should provide “absolutely the best equipment they can wear and use” to reduce the chances of transmitting COVID-19.
“It’s not 100 percent fool proof, but … under the circumstances, it’s a risk that has to be taken very well.”
look | Can be frightening, but policy necessary, says infectious disease expert:
Susie Hota, medical director of infection prevention control at the University Health Network in Toronto, says these policies are not unique to Ottawa hospitals, but are likely to implement “crisis-type interventions” in hospitals across the country.
“Things are very dire,” she said, noting that measures that were once theoretical and only on paper are becoming a reality.
Hota said hospitals not having health care workers could be at greater risk from transmission.
“It’s really about weighing the risks and benefits of something that people around find a little unusual compared to the option of taking care of patients who need it – which is probably more risk in this scenario, ” He said.
“While this may sound frightening to people in some ways, and a little shocking, I think we all have to recognize the reality in which we are and how [decisions] Not being taken lightly.”
‘Bad Band-Aid Solution,’ Union Says
Rachel Muir, a nurse at an Ottawa hospital and president of the Ontario Nurses Association’s local bargaining unit, says she already knows a handful of nurses who are working under self-isolation because of exposure to COVID-19. have been
“Work self-isolation is a poor Band-Aid solution to a dire situation we should never have been in,” Muir said.
Although no complaints have been filed about work’s self-isolation, Muir said the issue is on his radar. She’s concerned about the effect nurses can have on working when they’re sick.
“Personally, I don’t like it. I don’t like the fact that we’ve come to this point, and it all goes back to the fact that we’ve been short-staffed for so long,” she said.
“we’re in trouble.”
Policy in line with Ontario guidelines
According to an Ontario government guideline published on December 30, the province outlined an early return to work scenario for health care workers during staff shortages.
“Staff who are cases (ie have tested positive or symptomatic) should be considered only in case of critical staff shortage,” the government said.
“The lowest number of high-risk health care workers should be returned to work to allow for business continuity.”
It says that in that case, health care workers who are symptomatic or test positive can return to work under self-isolation if they are asymptomatic, among other requirements such as being fully vaccinated , and wear fit-tested, seal-checked N95 respirators at all times. during work.
The province said they should avoid working with immunocompromised patients.
The CBC has sought clarification from the health ministry on its guidance and is awaiting a response.
Ottawa Morning7:11Hospital workers with symptoms of COVID may be asked to work in staffing crisis