‘Back into the fire again’: Foothills nurses return to work amid COVID-19 outbreaks

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Stopa said some staff began isolating on Sept. 17, and those who have now been isolating for at least 14 days are “starting to trickle back” into the workforce.

The returns are expected to relieve some concerns around staffing, but Stopa added worries about a depleted and burned-out workforce persist.

“It’s going to help fill up some of the holes that are there,” Stopa said. “It’s not going to completely fix it because, as we’ve said, even before the outbreaks and before COVID started, we were short-staffed anyway. Anything that takes away from staffing is from the bare minimum.”

Another issue plaguing Foothills staff has been sick pay, with some forced to use banked sick days while isolating. Other casual workers took a financial hit from missing shifts while isolating.

A federal bill that includes expansions to sick leave benefits received royal assent Friday, but Stopa said it was too early to know whether Alberta nurses would be able to take advantage of the new benefits. He said the UNA was still looking to Alberta Health Services to do right by their employees.

“We’re going to be looking at all our members being supported in the same way, whether they’re casuals or regular employees,” Stopa said.

AHS has said employees directed to self-isolate will receive compensation, if eligible under their collective bargaining agreements or employment contracts.

Foothills did not provide an update on the status of its outbreaks Saturday.

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