Sharp increase in absences from the health network

At the Christmas gates, the health network is facing a meteoric increase in sick leave linked to COVID-19. In three days, more than 350 “COVID absences” have been added to the Quebec record.

This is what the Ministry of Health and Social Services said at Duty, Friday night. “We report a large number of employees [absents] especially since the last few days, ”wrote media relations coordinator Marie-Claude Lacasse in an email exchange.

As the Omicron variant makes its own, more than 4,000 network workers have to be absent because they are awaiting the result of a COVID-19 test or because they have tested positive. Three days earlier, that figure had risen to 3,650.

“Therefore, recruitment efforts must continue continuously, especially since it is desired to increase the rate of vaccination,” wrote the MSSS, Friday.

In a context where “the network is already […] weakened ”, the vice-president of occupational health and safety of the Interprofessional Health Federation (FIQ), Isabelle Groulx, is surprised that Quebec has not reacted faster.

“With Omicron, which seems even more contagious, we can say that it is a huge pressure that will be exerted during the holiday season. “

Towards an “explosion”

Healthcare workers already have the option of getting a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. However, in Montreal, in particular, absences are starting to accumulate, observed the president of the union of health care professionals of the East of the Island of Montreal, Denis Cloutier. According to him, the worst is yet to come.

“At the beginning of January, this is where we expect the explosion,” he said.

As workers go away, Cloutier expects to see a growing impact on the population. “The first risk is associated with the capacity of hospitals. It could force some load shedding, ”he added.

Thursday, announcing the tightening of measures for the winter holidays, the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, assured that the network was “able, at this time, to do all the activities” without relieving surgical operations. The ministry estimates that it currently has an additional capacity of 660 beds in hospitals.

According to the MSSS, “the network can count on relatively the same number of employees as last winter”, when it had to deal with the second pandemic wave. The number of hospitalizations then climbed to 1,525 in January.

However, all this could have been avoided upstream, said Isabelle Groulx. In a letter sent to the minister on Thursday, she strongly deplored the “lack of preparation” of Quebec.

“As healthcare professionals, we are worried, can we read. We can only stress the importance of reactivating all the infection prevention and control measures that prevailed in previous waves, including the reinstatement of warm, hot and cold areas, the end of staff mobility. , access to all protective equipment… ”

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