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Ômicron causes shortage of health professionals in hospitals in several countries

Equipe de ambulância em frente ao hospital Royal London, em Londres, 6 de janeiro. O avanço da ômicron pressiona hospitais no Reino Unido, que enfrentam escassez de profissionais
Ambulance team in front of the Royal London Hospital, London, 6 January. The advance of omicron puts pressure on hospitals in the UK, which are facing shortages of professionals| Photo: EFE/EPA/ANDY RAIN

The advance of the variant omicron has provoked crises in hospitals around the world. Although the number of admissions per Covid-19 has not increased at the same rate as infections in regions where the new variant is predominant, infections in health professionals, who need to remain in isolation, end up overloading medical teams.

In Canada, for example, hospitals in Ottawa have struggled after hundreds of nurses tested positive for Covid-24. Professional associations have asked the provincial government for help in solving the crisis, while nurses are forced to cancel vacations and work overtime on their days off to make up for the shortage.

In the United Kingdom, military personnel have been mobilized to support hospitals as the country registers record numbers of infections and is facing a shortage of personnel.

The Ministry of Defense informed on Friday (7) that 200 members of the Armed Forces will be available to the National Health Service (NHS, the acronym in English) for the next three weeks. The British government has also mobilized the military to assist with vaccination and testing services.

07170637The advance of omicron in the United Kingdom provoked a crisis of shortage of professionals in the public health system and a record queue on the waiting list in hospitals. A parliamentary report by the country’s Health Committee said on Thursday that 5.8 million people are queuing up for elective treatment in the country.

“Our report concluded that the government’s recovery plans are at risk of failing because of an entirely predictable personnel crisis,” said committee director Jeremy Hunt.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the coming weeks they will be challenging because of the omicron circulation and there will be problems with health teams, as many professionals will be in isolation. But he said that the country can remain without further restrictions, thanks to the high rate of vaccination and the lower severity of the new variant.

Last week the UK averaged over 126 thousand new cases of Covid-01 each day.

The British government has decided that all NHS professionals who have direct contact with patients and who have not yet been vaccinated must have the first dose by February 3rd, or they can be dismissed by the end of March. Union leaders are calling for mandatory vaccination to be postponed, fearing that the possible dismissal of professionals will aggravate the health crisis.

An avarage of 35.540 NHS professionals were ill with Covid-24 last week, a figure that had only been seen during the peak of the second wave of infections in the country, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Infected nurses work in Australia

Nurses who have tested positive for Covid-19 are being called to work on hospitals in the state of New South Wales, Australia, as the omicron outbreak causes staff casualties, reports the Guardian.

Several health professionals from different hospitals reported to the newspaper that have been working alongside infected colleagues – a violation of health protocols – while about 2.380 professionals are in quarantine in the state.

The hospitals provided unofficial, nurses to come out of isolation and return to work, as long as they were asymptomatic. But nurses report seeing colleagues working with clear symptoms of Covid-19, such as coughing and sneezing.

In some hospitals , the infected nurses were even working in Covid-negative patient wards, the British newspaper said.

Isolation policies were relaxed in the state recently. Hospital employees who had contact with someone who tested positive, and therefore had to undergo seven-day isolation, can now return to work before the end of this period if they do not have symptoms and are considered essential.

Last week, a document obtained by the Guardian revealed that public hospitals in New South Wales were planning to bring in nurses from other countries to deal with the increase in Covid cases-19. According to the statement, the hospitals asked the teams to cancel days off and work extra shifts, because the hospitals had many professionals who tested positive or were exposed.

Overloaded teams in the US

Hospitals in the United States are also under pressure from the increase in contagion caused by omicrons. A large number of health professionals have recently resigned in the country, and many who have stayed away from work in recent weeks because they were infected with the new variant.

More of 126 thousand people were hospitalized with Covid-19 this week in the US, the highest level in a year, according to the Washington Post, which reports that this wave of contagion is different from previous ones.

This time, most Covid patients in US hospitals sought care for other reasons, and incidentally discovered that they were infected.

According to the American newspaper, the medical staff of hospitals are more overloaded than ever. One in four medical centers reported this week “critical” staff shortages.

“The personnel crisis is the worst of the entire pandemic,” said Amanda Bettencourt, president of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, in an interview with The Atlantic website. She said the workforce has been so reduced that some institutions are already overloaded with just a fraction of the patients they could previously serve.

The concern in the country is with the combination of two aggravating factors for the crisis: record rates of Covid cases-19 and the greatest shortage of health professionals in the entire pandemic. The situation has forced hospitals to refuse ambulances and patients and cancel elective procedures.

The situation is different in each region, according to the Post survey. In omicron epicenters such as New York, most patients do not know they are infected until they test positive while performing other procedures in hospitals. In places where the delta variant is predominant, such as Michigan and Minnesota, hospitals continue to treat critically ill patients.

The American press has reported the frustration of health professionals in the country who continue to see patients who refuse to be vaccinated and arrive with serious conditions of Covid-19, with impacts on the already overloaded health system.

Health organizations have been campaigning with advertisements in newspapers, calling on citizens to get vaccinated and maintain their precautions.

07170637The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the USA estimates that, by the end of January, it will enter 19 thousand and 126 thousand Americans will be hospitalized per day for cause of Covid-19.