Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie says the city has a strategy in place to ensure that vital and crucial services are maintained even if up to 40% of the workforce calls in sick.
Despite an increase in unplanned absences as the pandemic’s fourth wave worsens, Crombie told reporters on Friday morning that Mississauga remains in a “very stable situation.”
However, she stated that measures are in place to “redeploy workers from non-essential tasks into vital positions if needed,” implying that some services may be reduced or eliminated.
“We have a business continuity plan that allows us to prioritize and maintain essential and critical services, even if staff shortages were to get as high as 40 per cent,” she said. “While we hope we never get to that point, we are ready to scale up or scale down operations across the organization based on current available staff.”
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has said that employers across all sectors should be prepared for absentee rates between 20 and 30 per cent, as the Omicron continues to trigger an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases over the coming weeks.
During Friday’s briefing, Crombie said that there have already been some impacts on transit service due to unplanned absences with Miway being forced to cancel service on two routes – 101/101A Dundas Express and 107 Malton Express – and reduce service on another.
However, she said that the city’s emergency services have been able to continue their operations mostly unaffected through halting some training and redeploying some resources.
“I want to assure residents that all things considered our city and our frontline emergency services are ready and available to respond when you need them,” she said. “That being said they need our help to reduce non-emergency pressure on the system. So we ask that you only call 911 if you are experiencing an urgent and I mean urgent medical or fire emergency.”
Hospitals being strained by increased absences
Crombie did not provide any specific data regarding unplanned absences, however in Toronto officials have said that approximately 13 per cent of workers are now calling in sick on a regular basis.
That is compared to an unplanned absence rate of about 3.4 per cent pre-pandemic.
The increase in absences due to positive COVID-19 cases or exposures is having a particularly pronounced impact on hospitals, which are also dealing with higher patient volumes.
Karli Farrow, who is the president and CEO of Trillium Health Partners, said during Friday’s briefing that about 350 workers were off due to COVID-19 as of yesterday and “that number continues to increase.”
She said that in order to address the staffing shortages Trillium has already redeployed about 150 staff “from other areas of the hospital, including places like surgery” and is also working with regional partners to help ease some of the pressure it is facing.
Meanwhile, Peel Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh says that the rapid spread of COVID-19 within the community means that we will increasingly find ourselves in a “a transition period” where the focus will shift to “preventing severity rather than infection itself.”
As a result, he believes that testing will become less relevant in the broader public.
In fact, experts are now advising anyone experiencing symptoms to presume they have COVID-19 and to isolate for at least five days.
“While fast testing are crucial, particularly in high-risk situations, their utility in the population is rapidly reducing,” Loh added. “When a forest is completely engulfed in flames, it’s less critical to find out which trees are burning and more important to preserve those higher-risk situations, those higher-risk towns that may be within that area.”