B.C. considers allowing some COVID-sick health-care employees to work

In an effort to keep the health care system from collapsing, B.C. is considering whether to allow COVID-19 positive health-care workers with mild symptoms to continue to work.

Like Manitoba and Ontario, B.C. is the latest province to consider the rule change after Quebec said it would allow some health-care workers with mild symptoms to continue working.

“Yes, we are looking at fitness for work for people who have mild illness in the health care setting,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, adding this option is one the province will need to weigh as it thinks about “business continuity.

“And that is something that we have had preliminary plans for, but we’re working with the Occupational Health and Safety folk to make sure that we have those criteria identified for health-care workers, and making sure we also have plans to be able to substitute other workers and move workers around as needed.”

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If someone is sick with COVID-19 or other illnesses, Henry reiterates, “we don’t want them in a workplace setting,” because of the risk it could spread to others.

“But there are certain settings where we need to make sure that we have that balancing of continuity of care,” she said.

“We need to look at what are the measures that need to be in place to ensure that particularly people who have very mild illness or are asymptomatic, are able to safely do work in those workplaces if needed.”

Henry adds staffing levels for police services, fire services, and schools are also top of mind.

Staff shortages because of sick employees are already the reality for many B.C. businesses, Henry says, adding these businesses will need to find the alternatives like hiring more staff or closing temporarily.

The best way to prevent drastic measures, Henry says, is for all eligible British Columbians to get vaccinated.

“We want to prevent [closures]. And the best way to prevent them is by making sure that everybody in your setting is vaccinated and that we have those COVID safety plans … going back to thinking about what are the things that we have in place before we had vaccination that helped us protect workers?” she said. “So those barriers, the Plexiglas that was for keeping space, making sure we’re masking, making sure that workers aren’t gathering together and having lunch together in a small break room. Those are all the things we need to go back to thinking as this strain is spreading through our communities right now.”

CityNews has reached out to the B.C. Nurses Union for comment.

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