Canada’s most populous provinces are facing staff shortages in health- and long-term care as Canada continues to face record-breaking COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations related to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube says the health-care system is missing about 20,000 workers who have been infected with or exposed to the virus and adds the government is working with unions to find more staff to care for about 2,500 COVID-19 patients.
Health officials are reporting another 1,953 COVID-19 hospitalizations, a rise of almost 12 per cent compared with a day earlier.
In Ontario, outbreaks are hitting long-term care homes and leading to staff absences of between 20 and 30 per cent in some areas.
Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips says there are outbreaks at 186 homes in 30 of Ontario’s 34 public health units.
He says staffing is a concern but notes that long-term care is affected differently than hospitals, which still have new admissions despite being short-staffed.
Surging cases of the Omicron variant are also putting pressure on some police and transit services across the country.
With 170 personnel booked off on leave related to COVID-19, the Winnipeg Police Service declared an internal state of emergency Wednesday. The Edmonton and Calgary police services warned of staffing challenges after a growing number of staff tested positive or were in isolation.
Ontario’s GO Transit said a temporary reduction in train and bus service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton regions is set to begin within days due to staff shortages due to COVID-19.
Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Wednesday that Ottawa would distribute 140 million rapid tests across the country this month, four times the number delivered in December.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said restrictions on molecular lab tests mean there is no way to be sure of just how many COVID-19 cases there truly are in Canada.
The latest figures from Health Canada indicate the Omicron variant has fuelled 344,140 active cases across the country.