Sick leaves amongst B.C. health-care staff have elevated since begin of pandemic, information exhibits

This story is a part of State of affairs Vital, a sequence from CBC British Columbia reporting on the limitations individuals on this province face in accessing well timed and applicable well being care.

A stylized phrase reading 'SITUATION CRITICAL', made to read like a red heartbeat monitor.

Knowledge exhibits that sick leaves in B.C.’s health-care sector are up by a marked quantity in comparison with pre-pandemic ranges.

In accordance with numbers requested by CBC Information, a mean of 9.7 per cent of health-care staff within the public system had been off sick for no less than a day over the past three weeks of July and the primary two weeks of August.

That compares to six per cent of workers having sick hours weekly earlier than the pandemic, a quantity launched by Well being Minister Adrian Dix final month. 

The info has led to advocates calling for higher help for employees, and steps to cut back COVID transmission to cut back the burden on hospital staff.


“When it comes to there being a rise of health-care staff at the moment on sick go away, I am really not stunned by that,” stated Adriane Gear, vice-president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union. 

“We have additionally seen a spike in COVID infections. Nurses and different health-care staff … sadly, they, too, are getting sick.”

Andrew Longhurst, a well being coverage researcher at Simon Fraser College, stated it’s particularly regarding that the illness burden has been excessive through the summer time months, when respiratory diseases are normally not outstanding.

“Going now into the autumn, once we’re prone to see even better demand on health-care companies, we’re prone to be persevering with to expertise important illness associated absences,” he stated. “It is not sustainable. It is clearly not working proper now.” 

B.C.’s public health-care system has been considerably impacted by closures over the previous few months. 

Longhurst says the state of affairs will seemingly proceed until the province makes concerted efforts to cut back illness transmission via common measures like masking and widespread testing.

Nurses might be getting sick at work

A spokesperson for the Well being Ministry stated they aren’t quantifying what number of staff are off sick with COVID throughout any given week.

“Whereas health-care staff are prioritized for COVID-19 testing, many are utilizing speedy antigen exams, which aren’t reported in the way in which that PCR exams are,” the spokesperson stated in a press release. “Not everybody who has signs is getting examined and never all health-care staff who do get a reportable PCR take a look at establish as a health-care employee.

“For these causes, the variety of health-care staff who’ve examined constructive for COVID-19 is just not obtainable.”

However Gear says it is “completely attainable” that nurses are getting sick with COVID inside hospitals.

“Nurses proceed to accumulate COVID, identical to different members of the general public locally, but in addition within the hospital setting,” she stated.

B.C. nurses working extra additional time

Gear says the illness burden, together with a basic staffing scarcity, is resulting in many shifts going unfilled at hospitals — resulting in an “unsustainable” quantity of additional time hours being labored by nurses.

Knowledge exhibits that almost one-third of B.C.’s nurses have been pulling additional time hours this 12 months, greater than the nationwide common. Longhurst says analysis exhibits continued additional time results in poorer care and a rise in office accidents.

“It is really very regarding as a result of [overtime] appears to be a main staffing technique and it is completely not sustainable,” Gear stated. “Typically you are caring for like twice as many sufferers as you’ll usually.”


When requested what the province was doing to assist health-care staff, the ministry spokesperson pointed to hiring initiatives and psychological well being packages like Take care of Caregivers.

“We’ve additionally labored with key companions — such because the B.C. School of Nurses and Midwives, B.C. Nurses’ Union and well being authority management — to extend nurses’ consciousness of accessible helps,” the spokesperson stated.

However Gear says the province’s proposed hiring initiatives are a “drop within the bucket” and there may be little being performed to retain staff at the moment within the system.

Because the nurses’ union’s collective settlement with the province has expired, they’re set to go to the desk with the province initially of October.

Gear would not say if any job motion is on the horizon for B.C.’s health-care workers, however she stated nurses are at the moment feeling disrespected.

“We all know that we’re revered and appreciated by the general public, however we have to see the federal government present us some respect,” she stated.

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