B.C. health-care workers missed nearly 28,000 shifts last week due to illness
British Columbia health-care workers missed nearly 28,000 shifts last week due to illness as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to gut workforces across the province.
Nurses, paramedics and other health-care workers missed 27,937 shifts "due to short-term illness" between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9, B.C.'s health minister said during a live update on the province's pandemic response on Tuesday.
"This could be due to COVID-19, due to experienced symptoms of COVID-19, or due to other illnesses," Health Minister Adrian Dix said.
The minister said the province is looking for space to establish a field hospital in B.C.'s Lower Mainland if necessary to cope with the growing influx of COVID-19 patients, including potentially converting space at the Vancouver Convention Centre where there is currently a vaccination clinic.
Dix stressed, however, that the move is a proactive one and the province does not require the emergency measure at this time.
"We are not moving to stand up a field hospital at this time, but of course we want to have all of the options available as we go through these difficult weeks," Dix said.
The majority of the health-care worker shifts that were missed due to illness last week were in the Fraser Health region, where staff called in sick to 7,151 shifts, Dix said.
Approximately 5,183 health-care shifts were missed due to illness in the Vancouver Coastal Health region; 4,939 were missed in the Vancouver Island region; 4,713 were missed in the Interior; and 1,308 shifts were missed due to illness in the Northern Health region.
B.C. paramedics and workers in the Provincial Health Services Authority called in sick to more than 3,100 shifts last week while Providence Health Care workers missed nearly 1,500 shifts, according to the health minister.
"All health authorities are in the process of updating their contingency plans to ensure people in B.C. continue to receive quality, critical, urgent care when they need it," Dix said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned last week that all businesses and workplaces in B.C. should be prepared for up to one-third of their workforces to be sick with COVID-19 at any given time as the Omicron variant peaks in the province.
Henry is again urging all British Columbians to get fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible as the current wave of COVID-19 infections is expected to last for several more weeks.
"The majority of people who are in our ICUs needing critical care right now continue to be people who don’t have that protection that vaccination gives," Henry said Tuesday.
"If you are vaccinated, you have less risk of infection, particularly after your booster," Henry said. "You are much more likely to have mild illness, to not need hospital care, to not need ICU care and to not die from this virus. And the risk that you're going to pass it on to others is dramatically reduced."
The provincial health officer said three people in their 20s and one person in their 30s are currently in intensive care in B.C. hospitals, and all of them are unvaccinated.