Quebec ­missing 9,500 health ­workers

By Matthew McCully

During his daily briefing, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said a total of 9,500 employees from the health network are currently off the job. Among those, Legault said it is estimated that 4,000 are off because they have tested positive for COVID-19. The other 5,500 are either off because they are high risk, under quarantine, or feel unsafe under the circumstances.
“The network can’t function with 9,500 people missing,” Legault said, asking people who have completed their quarantine or recovered from the virus to return to work.
“Please come back, we need you,” the premier said.
Legault pointed out that the bonus pay, offering an additional four per cent to health network staff and eight per cent for front line workers will be extended until May 31.
Regarding PABs (orderlies), Legault said negotiations are going well with unions to secure a permanent pay increase.
Legault said the province is balancing two different worlds at the moment; the crisis in long-term care facilities, and the rest of the population of Quebec.
While the possibility of reopening schools before next September was worrisome for some parents, Legault said it would be optional.
With 93 per cent of COVID-19 related deaths coming from seniors’ residences and 97 per cent involving people 60 years old and over, Legault said it is time for the conversation to shift towards building immunity in the population.
A vaccine could be months, even up to two years away, Legault said, explaining Quebecers couldn’t remain in confinement that long.
“If everyone stays home, the situation stays the same,” Legault said.
What health officials would like to work towards now, Legault explained, is gradually letting people who are low risk venture out and build immunity.
“If we had everyone coming out at the same time, it would be a wave bigger than what already had,” he said, adding that cold season comes with the fall.
Quebec’s current herd immunity to COVID-19 is under 10 per cent.
To reach a level where the virus no longer posed a threat, herd immunity would need to reach between 60 and 80 per cent.
Next week Legault will present a calendar for the gradual reopening of the economy and schools. It will include a plan for the coming weeks and months and will be adjusted by public health officials based on how the situation evolves.
There were 109 new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the total in Quebec to 1,243.
Currently, there are 21,838 confirmed cases in the province, up 873 from the day before. Of those, 803 are in the Estrie region.
There are 1,411 hospitalizations because of the virus, an increase of 133, and 207 of those patients are in intensive care.
According to the Quebec Public Health Institute, there are 4,484 confirmed recoveries in the province.
For a local breakdown of the COVID-19 infection rate by municipality, visit the website

Published in the Friday, April 24 edition of The Record.


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