COVID cases climbing among health-care workers in Canada, but make up less of the total case count across the country: new data

WINNIPEG — COVID-19 infections among health-care workers continue to rise in 2021, but new data shows they are making up less of the total case count in Canada compared to 2020.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released new information showing that the number of COVID-19 cases among health-care workers has grown in Canada from 65,920 to 94,873 between January 2021 and June 15, 2021.

According to CIHI’s data, health-care workers make up 6.8 per cent of all of Canada’s cases.

Even though the case numbers have climbed, Lynn McNeely, manager of Health Workforce Information for CIHI, said the percentage of total COVID-19 cases that are health-care workers has decreased.

“When we first started reporting numbers in July of last year, they were at about 19.4 per cent of the overall proportion of all cases in Canada,” said McNeely.

She said seeing the drastic change in numbers can be viewed as a good news story in the pandemic and said there could be several reasons for why the number has changed so much, noting the vaccine rollout and prioritizing health-care workers first, as well as sustained lockdown measures and more access to personal protective equipment.

When comparing the numbers worldwide, McNeely said Canada actually has a higher percentage of infected health-care workers compared to countries like Germany, France, and the United States. Despite the fact, Canada has only had 43 health-care worker deaths compared to 85 in Germany and 1,653 in the U.S.

She said while it is nice to have that data to compare, you need to take the comparable with a grain of salt.

“The reason for the higher infection, again, can be contributed to a number of different things. Perhaps when Canada includes health-care workers, they’re including a broader category of health-care workers. We just don’t know the definitions in those other countries, as well as there may be different testing practices, as well as different data, collection and recording standards.”

McNeely also said Manitoba has been following a similar trend as the entire country.

Manitoba has had 2,491 COVID-19 cases among health-care workers and that currently accounts for 4.6 per cent of all cases.

“When we first started looking at it, the rate was at 10.1 per cent.”

Manitoba has had four health-care workers die from COVID-19.

CIHI also found that in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia, personal support workers were more likely to be infected with COVID-19 compared to other health-care professions.

The data showed personal support workers in these provinces were 1.8 times more like to get COVID-19 compared to nurses and 3.3 times more likely than physicians.

PROVIDING SUPPORT DURING COVID-19

The data also found that 6,000 nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and pharmacists rejoined the workforce to help during the pandemic in 2020.

McNeely said this is something that has never happened before in the health-care field.

She said this is a number that CIHI continues to monitor going forward to see how many of those health-care workers stay once the pandemic disappears. She noted understanding the real capacity of the health-care workforce will help governments address concerns that are being brought up right now such as burnout among health-care staff.

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