Hamilton

Almost 1 in 4 Hamilton COVID-19 cases are from health-care workers

COVID-19 has infected 127 Hamilton front-line health-care workers during the pandemic, making up almost one in four of the city's positive cases.

127 of Hamilton's front-line, health-care workers had the virus during the pandemic

Hamilton's hospital networks say 61 health-care workers have been infected by COVID-19 during the pandemic — but not all staff members live in Hamilton, meaning the numbers may not all appear in city data. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

COVID-19 has infected 127 Hamilton front-line health-care workers during the pandemic, making up almost one in four of the city's positive cases.

Hamliton Public Health told CBC News that 21 of those cases are still active.

The data includes staff and volunteers in hospitals, retirement homes, rehab facilities and others. 

Meanwhile, Hamilton's two hospital networks say 61 of their health-care workers tested positive for COVID-19 since March 10 — but these numbers are separate from the city's total as not all employees live in Hamilton.

Of the 61 infections, 39 work at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and 22 work at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

Hamilton Public Health said all of the HHS caess have been resolved, but could not confirm if St. Joe's cases are cleared.

Hamilton Health Sciences says 39 of its health-care workers have been infected by COVID-19 throughout the pandemic, but public health said all the infected have recovered and are working again. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Lillian Badzioch, an HHS spokesperson, said anyone potentially exposed was contacted.

"As part of this process, other healthcare workers may have been sent home to self-isolate as a precaution. This does not mean that they tested positive," she wrote.

"However, as community transmission is occurring, cases among healthcare workers are also not unexpected.

St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton says 22 of its health-care workers have been infected by COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and most experienced mild symptoms. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

At. St. Joe's, it's unclear how many cases are still active.

Maria Hayes, a spokesperson for St. Joe's, told CBC News any staff who test positive must self-isolate at home for 14 days regardless of symptoms.

"Contact tracing is done and anyone with direct contact with the positive staff member is tested and sent home until their test results come in. Negatives return to work. Positives are home in isolation for 14 days," Hayes wrote.

"We've had questions before about whether positive staff picked up the virus through patient care, but because the virus is present in the community it's difficult to determine the source. None of our health care workers who have had the virus have needed hospitalization. Most experienced mild symptoms."

Within both networks, it's unclear which hospital sites are affected and how workers contracted the virus.

Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, noted both networks have struggled to access PPE, which he thinks is part of what has led to the infections.

"These are big numbers, no question. This is a bit of an epic system failure with respect to protecting the health-care workforce," he said.

Hamilton Public Health does not specify how many Hamilton health-care workers are infected in data made available to the public, but said all cases among hospital workers would be reflected in city data.

In the Niagara region, health-care workers account for 22.6 per cent of COVID-19 cases.

Hamliton has 490 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday morning.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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