Some Quebec health workers sick with COVID-19 are being asked to return to work, union says

“It goes completely against what public health has been telling the population of Quebec for weeks.”


Some Quebec health care workers have been asked to report to work in recent days while suffering from severe symptoms of COVID-19, including nausea, vomiting, headaches and severe fatigue, the head of a hospital said on Monday. major Quebec nurses’ union.

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Returning a symptomatic COVID-19 positive worker back to work is “completely unacceptable” and goes against public health recommendations, said Julie Bouchard of the Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec.

“While the entire population is asked to stay at home and isolate themselves to avoid contagion when they present symptoms or are positive for COVID-19, health network workers can still go out to work, risk contaminating our colleagues, getting even sicker. to already vulnerable patients,” he said in a phone interview.

“It goes completely against what public health has been telling the population of Quebec for weeks.”

Bouchard said he has only heard of about 10 sick healthcare workers so far, adding that the practice appears to be limited to a small number of employers. However, he said he worries that more health centers will try to do the same, as the network faces severe staffing shortages.

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The Department of Health confirmed in an email that workers who test positive may be required to return to work, even if they have symptoms, but only in cases of “persistent compromise of access to services” and when they have been exhausted. all other options. .

Any infected employee should only work with less vulnerable patients or in COVID-19 positive units and should wear protective equipment, spokesman Robert Maranda wrote in an email. Maranda added that measures should be implemented in common areas to prevent sick workers from contaminating other employees.

Bouchard said the government updated its policies to allow COVID-19-positive health workers to return to work during the fifth wave, which began in December, but said at the time the directive only applied to asymptomatic workers.

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Réjean Leclerc, head of another union representing health workers, says he has yet to hear firsthand about any cases of symptomatic health workers who have been called out. Workers with 19 positives could “fall back” on calling those who are still sick.

Asking a sick person to return to work is dangerous for patients, colleagues and the worker, who needs all his energy to fight the virus, he said Monday in a telephone interview.

“We are against (bringing COVID-19 positive workers back to work) because it is exacerbating the pandemic; it is delaying its end because we expose vulnerable people, patients, colleagues,” said Leclerc, who is president of the FSSS-CSN. “It’s a spinning wheel.”

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Instead, he said the government should address staffing shortages by better incentivizing workers who left the countryside to return and by improving working conditions. Another way to relieve pressure on the health care system is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 among the general public, she added.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government reported Monday that there were no new deaths due to COVID-19 and dozens fewer people hospitalized with the disease. The Health Department said there were 2,125 people in hospital with COVID-19, down 51 from its last report published on Friday. The number of people in intensive care was reduced by one, to 67.

The government said there are currently 5,014 health workers out of work for reasons related to COVID-19.

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