QEII hospital makes 'difficult decision' to postpone some surgeries as COVID-19 surges

WATCH: Nova Scotia Health is dealing with severe staff shortages due to employees off work because they are sick or isolating due to COVID-19. Service levels are being impacted 00 which has prompted the health authority to implement a number of changes to address the situation. Ashley Field reports.

Nova Scotia’s QEII Health Sciences Centre has made the “difficult decision” to postpone most non-urgent and elective surgeries “due to an increasing number and acuity of patients with COVID-19 in hospital, combined with a growing number of staff off work.”

In an internal memo Friday, Nova Scotia Health said beginning Monday, surgeries at the QEII will be limited to day-surgery procedures, time-sensitive cancer and non-cancer same-day surgeries.

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“We recognize this is incredibly challenging for our periop teams and for our patients, however, after careful consideration it is a necessary step to ensure sufficient inpatient bed capacity,” the memo said.

“Thank you for your ongoing cooperation and patience as we work through another challenging period in this pandemic.”

COVID-19 cases have been climbing since Nova Scotia lifted most COVID-19 restrictions last month, and hundreds of health-care workers have become infected.

As of Thursday, there were nearly 800 health-care employees off work because they either had tested positive for COVID-19, were awaiting test results or were exposed to a member of their household who tested positive.

According to the latest COVID-19 update on Thursday, an average of nearly 600 positive PCR tests are being reported in Nova Scotia every day.

This week, experts have said that Canada is heading towards a potential sixth COVID-19 wave this spring.

Changes to address ‘growing staffing crisis’

In a statement, Nova Scotia Health spokesperson Brendan Elliott said the health authority implemented a number of changes on Friday to “address the growing staffing crisis in the health care system, while continuing to mitigate the risk of bringing COVID-19 into our facilities.”

As of Friday, health-care workers living in a household with a positive case can remain at work if they are fully vaccinated with a booster dose, asymptomatic, test negative for COVID-19 and follow work isolation protocols.

Those protocols include twice-daily active screening, wearing PPE at all times in the workplace, frequent handwashing and rapid testing a minimum of every 48 hours.

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Previously, workers living in a household with a positive case had to stay away from work for a minimum of three days following the household member’s test result, and could only return to work if they tested negative and were asymptomatic.

This change could mean as many as 140 health-care workers can return to their positions, Elliott said, though he noted that those without booster doses will still need to remain out of work for the three-day period.

As well, health-care workers who are infected with COVID-19 may now return to work after seven days rather than 10, with conditions.

They can now return on the eighth day if their symptoms have improved, there is no presence of fever for 24 hours prior to the return date, and they must also follow the work isolation protocols.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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