Allowing COVID-positive health-care staff to work possible: Kenney

Premier Jason Kenney said the province isn’t ruling out any options for maintaining labour capacity for acute-care sites in the coming weeks

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A new Quebec mandate that will allow some COVID-positive health-care staff to keep working could eventually be in the cards for Alberta.


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Premier Jason Kenney said during a Tuesday news conference the province isn’t ruling out any options for maintaining labour capacity for acute-care sites in the coming weeks.

“If we were under extreme stress with respect to the ability to provide care with a huge percentage of the health-care workforce in isolation, I can imagine a situation where health-care administrators in consultation with our public health authorities would do a risk assessment of where and when it’s appropriate to call people back to work,” Kenney said.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Alberta needs to be prepared to make hard decisions on isolation to maintain essential services such as hospital care.

“This is the reality of Omicron. It is the reality that other provinces are facing. So we are looking for options to prepare in the eventuality that we are going to be facing the same thing in several weeks’ time.”


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The new Quebec policy will allow health workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 to continue working while infected,  with decisions on who goes back to work made on a case-by-case and hospital-by-hospital basis.

Several changes to Alberta’s self-isolation protocol are being considered as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread through the province. One approach under consideration is moving from a 10-day to five-day mandated isolation period, in accordance with the United States Centers for Disease Control, Kenney said, with a potential decision on the topic later this week.

Kenney said he anticipates Omicron will require “a significant and growing number” of Alberta’s health-care workforce to isolate. Last week, the province relaxed its vaccine mandate for medical staff to allow unvaccinated physicians and health staff to be frequently tested for COVID-19 i n lieu of getting immunized, a move Health Minister Jason Copping said was done in light of the risk Omicron could pose to health-care capacity.


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Though emerging research increasingly suggests Omicron causes less severe illness than the previously dominant Delta variant of COVID-19, Kenney warned the sheer volume of anticipated infections could lead to a significant number of hospitalizations.

University of Calgary health policy expert Lorian Hardcastle said allowing COVID-positive staff to work in hospital settings should only be done as a last resort.

“We don’t want that unless it’s a dire situation and otherwise patients would go without care,” Hardcastle said. “Certainly, we need to do all other things possible before we get to that point.”

Hardcastle said Alberta’s policy on self-isolation should be crafted based on scientific evidence on how Omicron presents in patients and how long they are infectious, as opposed to copying policies put in place in other jurisdictions.

Twitter: @jasonfherring



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