If you end up in a hospital in Greater Victoria, would you want to be cared for by a worker who is infected with COVID-19?
I know I wouldn’t want that.
I’d rather that worker be resting at home until we were all sure they weren’t contagious.
And yet the bosses at Island Health are giving guidance to their workers that runs counter to what most people would expect amid COVID-19 which – despite what people want to believe – is still killing people and having serious health impacts.
On Feb. 1, a memo was posted on the Island Health website, with Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson and Chief Medical Health Executive Dr. Ben Williams providing “clarification” around “COVID testing and return to work guidance for Island Health staff and medical staff.”
The memo says that provincial policy remains that there is a five-day isolation period for health-care workers who “test positive” for COVID-19.
But despite the five days being provincial policy, Gustafson and Williams are telling workers to act differently.
“It is important to remember that the majority (of) health-care workers with respiratory symptoms do NOT (their emphasis) need to test for COVID-19, and can return to work when their fever is resolved and they feel well enough to work.”
They do recommend being tested if the workers are at risk of severe disease, but otherwise “COVID testing for HCW is not recommended.” (The “not recommended” was in bold for added emphasis.)
And then they added this gem: “Staff who do test positive for COVID-19 may be able to return to work before five days if their fever is resolved, they feel well enough to work and their manage or medical staff leader has determined they are required for safe operation of the service.”
So five days unless the worker thinks they are OK to come back, even if they still have COVID-19 and could spread it – although who knows if they have COVID-19 because these workers are being told to not bother testing for it.
This memo has been circulating on social media and many people have aired their disdain.
“Bonkers,” tweeted one person.
“Atrocious,” tweeted another.
“Instead of enforcing health and safety policy in our hospitals Island Health execs are exploiting loopholes in the policy to get around it. It’s a big deal,” tweeted SweetBCboi.
We’ve heard about the health staffing crisis in B.C. for a long time. This policy smells like management wanting to rush workers back because so many facilities are understaffed.
This also feels incredibly dangerous to tell workers who might have COVID-19 to A) not get tested and B) come back to work whenever they want – only to possibly spread the virus to patients through close contact. I certainly don’t want my compromised health or that of my 83-year-old mom’s health to be exposed to the virus.
But here we are.
Chris Campbell is an editor with Black Press Media who works in the Victoria hub of newspapers. You can follow him on Twitter @shinebox44.
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