COVID causing healthcare staffing shortages across Renfrew County

Special to WC Online

RENFREW COUNTY – Renfrew County’s top doctor says the rise of the Omicron COVID-19 variant in the county is causing staff shortage and increased pressure on the area’s healthcare services.

Acting chief medical officer of Health with the Renfrew County and District Health Unit (RCDHU), Dr. Robert Cushman, says many healthcare workers are currently in isolation due to testing positive for COVID-19.

“Our healthcare workers are testing positive, they’ve  become cases because Omicron spread is so quick and overwhelming that now our healthcare workers are getting at work, in the community and from their families,” Cushman said in an interview yesterday (Jan. 10).

Cushman says, even with enough capacity in the county’s hospitals, there is not enough staff to serve that capacity.

“We may have the beds, we may have the ICUs, but we may not have the healthcare workers,” he said. “This is a big problem.”

Cushman says staff shortages date back to pre-COVID times and that vaccine rules surrounding healthcare workers have not had a big effect on the shortage. Last October, the Pembroke hospital announced more than 97 per cent of their staff were vaccinated.

“You can count on one hand the number of people we’ve had to layoff due to (their vaccination status),” Cushman said. “It’s not really an issue. It’s more of an issue deep in the Valley, in the Barry’s Bay area. It’s not really an issue along the Highway 17 corridor and in the larger hospitals. It’s really a very small percentage.”

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