Absenteeism causing ‘critical’ staffing gaps in province’s hospitals
Posted: January 12, 2022
(January 11, 2022)
Health Minister Christine Elliott said about 600 hundred existing ICU beds and another potential 500 beds remain available.
However, Health Ontario CEO and President Matt Anderson said the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital beds doesn’t tell the whole story as staff absenteeism is seriously impacting the health care system.
“Absenteeism is really the acute challenge that we’re facing right now across not just our hospitals, our long-term care (LTC) homes and certainly throughout all different industries,” Anderson said.
Pausing non-emergency surgeries has freed up health care staff for redeployment and allowing in internationally-trained nurses will help the situation, he said.
Another solution, as outlined in a Dec. 30 guidance to hospitals, is to bring back self-isolating staff earlier than would normally be the case, providing they’re using personal protection equipment and away from others particularly those with compromised immune systems.“While the safest approach is to continue self-isolating, all layers of protection in the hierarchy of controls should be optimized to reduce the risk of having an exposed individual in the workplace,” the guidance says. “Staff who are cases (i.e. have tested positive or symptomatic) should be considered only in the critical staffing shortage situation as per guidance.”Anthony Dale, president and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said 80 new adult patients with COVID-related critical illness were admitted Monday to ICUs, the highest daily number of admissions in the pandemic.“The previous high was 77 admissions on April 9, 2021, which was at the peak of the 3rd wave,” Dale said in a statement Tuesday. “Ontario’s healthcare system capacity remains under immense pressure and health care workers continue to work tirelessly on the frontlines to manage and care for patients with and without COVID.
“Unfortunately, patients who are admitted to hospital with underlying conditions as well as COVID-19, are at a greater health risk than someone who does not have pre-existing conditions. The OHA and hospitals across Ontario encourage anyone who hasn’t done so already to get vaccinated right away to reduce the likelihood of severe COVID-19 disease and/or outcomes and minimize the impact on healthcare system capacity.,” Dale said.Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC), said she has never seen staffing levels as low as they currently are in hospitals and LTC facilities.
“That is a total crisis,” Mehra said. “Closing emergency departments? I mean what would be more of a crisis.”