Another nine surgeries were postponed at Foothills Medical Centre on Tuesday, as hospital staff balance limited staffing and inpatient capacity due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.
There are now 290 health-care workers in isolation because of possible exposure to the novel coronavirus in five units of the Calgary hospital. Since an outbreak has been declared in a short-stay surgical unit, surgical staff have been affected and a total of 48 surgeries have now been postponed .
The number of health-care workers isolating increased by 154 since Friday, according to Alberta Health Services.
David Harrigan, director of labour relations with the United Nurses of Alberta, said the facility’s nurses have growing concerns about losing pay, draining their sick leave bank and being overworked to cover for missing co-workers.
“We have a lot of people burning through sick leave or they’re not eligible for sick leave, and it’s important we sit down to reach some agreement on how this is going to work,” said Harrigan.
“For some, this outbreak means a lack of take-home pay, and for others, it means they’re expected to pick up the slack, work additional shifts and overtime. It’s sustainable for a short period of time but it becomes really problematic if it goes on for any length of time.”
He said the union has received many calls from nurses expressing those concerns.
UNA sent Alberta Health Services CEO Dr. Verna Yiu a letter last week to address the issues. Harrigan said paid sick leave in relation to a workplace COVID-19 outbreak will be part of union negotiations between the UNA and AHS.
Another five patients at Foothills have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of patients with the virus to 31. There are 27 health-care workers and two visitors who have tested positive after being in contact with patients who are now known to be linked to the outbreak.
No new units have been added to the outbreak list or watch list.
“The decision to postpone additional surgeries will be made on a daily basis going forward and will be dependent on staff availability,” AHS said in a statement.
Emergency surgeries are still taking place and the hospital is maintaining other services, including the emergency department, but visitation has been restricted to end-of-life situations and pre-approved essential visitors for the entire site.
Calgary police provide update on citations and mandatory mask tickets
Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said during Tuesday’s police commission meeting that officers haven’t been actively enforcing the city’s mandatory mask bylaw but have given out at least two tickets for non-compliance.
“In total, since the public health orders have been out, we have issued about 34 to 35 Public Health Act tickets, and two of them have been in relation to the mandatory face-covering bylaw,” said Neufeld.
“It has been an education process and, for the most part, people have been pretty good about the mask mandate. . . . We haven’t had a ton of complaints there and, when we have, the tickets given out have been cases where the person was completely adamant that they weren’t going to comply and the ticket was needed.”
Calgary Police Service has had four staff members test positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and only about one per cent of its workforce has been affected by COVID-19 related absences, Neufeld said.
The total number of cases in Alberta increased by 160 on Monday, from 16,187 completed tests.
There have now been 17,909 confirmed cases in Alberta, including 16,072 recoveries, 1,571 active cases and 266 deaths. There are 63 people in hospital, including 13 in intensive-care units.
Of the active cases, 574 are in the Calgary zone, 815 are in the Edmonton zone, 120 in the North zone, 40 in the South zone, 21 in the Central zone and one is unknown.
One additional death was reported Tuesday, a man in his 80s from the Edmonton zone who was not in continuing care.
Seven schools in Alberta are listed as having five or more cases. The newest addition to the list is Holy Trinity High School in the Regional Municipality Of Wood Buffalo.
Calgary schools on the list include Canyon Meadows School and St. Wilfrid Elementary School.