About 600 Nova Scotia Health employees off work due to COVID-related isolation

·3 min read
About 600 staff with Nova Scotia Health are currently off work due to either testing positive for COVID-19 or being a close contact of someone who has tested positive. (Getty Images - image credit)
About 600 staff with Nova Scotia Health are currently off work due to either testing positive for COVID-19 or being a close contact of someone who has tested positive. (Getty Images - image credit)

About 600 Nova Scotia Health employees are currently off work either because they have tested positive for COVID-19 or they are close contacts of someone who has.

Colin Stevenson, the health authority's vice-president of quality and system performance, said Thursday that the number is down from last week when 721 employees were at home due to self-isolation.

About half of the 600 workers are in the central zone, and half of the affected workers are registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or nurse practitioners, which is reflective of the percentage of workers who are nursing staff.

There are about 21,750 full-time and part-time employees working for Nova Scotia Health, not including casuals.

"There are absolute concerns as it relates to the impact of this current wave of COVID and what that is doing in the sense of the ability to deliver services," Stevenson said.

Nova Scotia Health has been dealing with shortages so far by asking employees to work extra shifts, redeploying staff to other tasks and asking staff to come back early from vacation, or cancelling surgeries.

CBC
CBC

Premier Tim Houston acknowledged the stresses on the health-care system during a COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

"People who work in health care are under significant pressure even without COVID, so once we start losing people because they have to isolate or because they're sick themselves, it's an incredible amount of pressure on the system."

But Houston said health-care workers have been "amazing."

"They're digging deep and they're making sure things continue to work, and I have every confidence they'll continue to do that."

Work isolation protocol

Prince Edward Island announced Wednesday it will allow staff members who are close contacts of people who have tested positive to continue working if they get tested each day. As a last resort, crucial staff members may be permitted to work even if they test positive for COVID-19 if it means saving a patient's life or preventing serious harm.

Stevenson said if the situation in Nova Scotia got to a point where the health authority couldn't deliver core services such as intensive care, it would implement its work-isolation protocol.

That protocol would allow staff members who are close contacts to work, but they would be required to test every 48 hours, monitor their health twice a day at work, maintain physical distance including during breaks and wear protective equipment.

If an employee working under the protocol became symptomatic, they would not be permitted to stay at work.

Stevenson said allowing an employee to work if they test positive is not part of Nova Scotia Health's protocol right now.

"If we got to a point where we weren't able to cover necessary services using all other approaches, then we would have to look at what the opportunities are, what we need to do … and the risk of having somebody within the organization working that is positive for COVID. Really, we want to avoid that to the degree possible."

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