Burned Healthcare Workers Fear Omicron Surges in Canadian Hospitals | The Canadian News

For Dr. Laura Hawryluck, one of the challenges of working in a strained health care system is not having more time to interact personally with patients.

Under constant pressure from COVID-19 and staff shortages, Hawryluck said hospital workers are being forced to become more task oriented, doing what they must to keep patients alive, and wasting time to truly understand them. .

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Add the Omicron variant to the mix, and healthcare workers will find themselves in a situation of “dread mixed with much concern” that hospitals will once again fill up with COVID-19 patients, Hawryluck said.

“The concern is that, having now navigated four waves of this, and this will be the fifth by our count, we have lost a lot of staff and people have been working all kinds of hours and relocated into situations,” Hawryluck said. an intensive care physician in Toronto.

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“(It) has us, frankly, very concerned about whether we are going to be able to provide the level of help that we want.”

An expanded health system

Canadian healthcare workers have been on the front line during the pandemic, dealing with four waves of COVID-19 patients flowing through the hospital system.

At various points in the pandemic, provinces have had to submit requests to the federal government for help with hospital staff. More recently, Manitoba submitted a formal request for additional intensive care unit (ICU) staff to help alleviate its stretched system.

This relentless trend has led to burnout, burnout and staff shortages throughout the industry. According to Statistics Canada, at the beginning of this year almost one in five job openings in Canada was in health care and social assistance; Those sectors experienced the largest losses year-over-year compared to all other sectors.

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“Our healthcare workers are exhausted and working in very challenging circumstances right now, even before Omicron,” said Toronto-based emergency physician Dr. Tasleem Nimjee.

“That’s a challenging environment to work in, and now he’s superimposing this on that.”

Governments have faced pressure during the pandemic to spend more money on healthcare and come up with detailed plans that include how to hire, train and retain workers to replace those who have left.

In November in Ontario, the government announced as part of its fall economic statement that it is investing $ 342 million to add and enhance the skills of more than 5,000 registered nurses and registered practical nurses and 8,000 personal support workers.

Another $ 57.6 million will go toward hiring an additional 225 nurse practitioners in long-term care, beginning next year.

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In Manitoba, the government announced Wednesday that it is investing $ 19.5 million to add 259 nursing training positions at five postsecondary institutions across the province as part of its multi-year plan to add approximately 400 positions in the coming years.

There are more than 800 nursing seats currently offered at six publicly funded post-secondary institutions across the province, authorities said Wednesday.

With the spread of Omicron in Canada, governments must make more investments to increase hospital capacity in anticipation of another increase, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

“The shortage of health professionals is in a crisis stage, and that is why doctors, specialists and surgeons advocate hiring more nurses and putting more funds to help (alleviate) these waiting times (for surgery)” , He said.

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“What we need is a solid national strategy with specific funds to retain and hire nurses, healthcare workers and really bring stability to our workforce.”

In his speech to the throne last month, the federal government promised to help improve health care systems and ease delays in surgeries.

Health Minister Jean-Ives Duclos acknowledged on November 30 that there is “a lot of work to do.”

“We understand that these delays are slowly reducing because the pandemic is relatively under greater control than a few months ago,” he said. “We know that one of the priorities is exactly that: handling delays in surgeries.”

As Omicron spreads in Canada, officials have been introducing measures to curb its spread. Canada’s Public Health Agency projected that if Omicron becomes the dominant strain of the virus in the country, cases will skyrocket by the new year.

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Ontario, which is among the leaders in the resurgence of COVID-19 in Canada, recorded 2,421 new cases on Thursday. However, COVID-19 patients in the ICU have remained relatively stable, but are generally increasing slowly.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken'

COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken

COVID-19: Ontario ICU patients could exceed 600 if no additional action is taken

Provincial health experts projected Thursday that unless community contacts are significantly reduced, the province’s ICU capacity could be severely affected in early January.

As we learn more about the variant, thinking about an Omicron-driven surge is causing anxiety, Silas said.

“When you work in an intensive care atmosphere, and now the whole health care system is in that intensive care atmosphere where you have to go, go, go, you need breaks and they haven’t had breaks for 22 months,” he said.

“Everyone was eager to have at least some time off, and it looks like it will be canceled for everyone.”

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For months, it felt as if society was beginning to return to its pre-COVID-19 normalcy, Nimjee said, but quickly adjusting to this new reality, especially with the holidays just around the corner, is difficult.

“It takes a while to almost relax and fall back into it, and then come back out of it so fast … it’s hard,” he said.

“But what we have to do, we have to do, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

As for Hawryluck, he pleads with Canadians to stay safe on vacation and get vaccinated.

“I can’t tell you how difficult it is to see someone struggle to breathe, to see someone struggle to breathe even with a fan, not knowing if they are going to live day to day, hour to hour sometimes, and having to convey that news to a family, it’s heartbreaking, ”he said.

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“If we, as a group of people … can do things that help prevent us from getting there, even if that prevention isn’t 100% effective, it’s worth it.”

– with files from Jamie Mauracher and The Canadian Press

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