Personal care home staff who have had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed to work at multiple locations across Manitoba after nearly a year of being restricted to a single site.
Manitoba public health officials said an order that restricted employees from working at more than one care home was amended Tuesday.
Staff can work at more than one site as early as two weeks after receiving the first dose. Those who have not received the vaccine will continue to be limited to working at one location.
"Across Canada, a significant proportion of reported COVID-19 deaths have affected residents of long-term care facilities," Health Minister Heather Stefanson said in a statement.
"We are continuing this order to protect our most at-risk Manitobans and ensure employees working in personal care homes can provide care safely."
The public health order that restricts the movement of staff between care homes was introduced in May 2020 to stop the spread of COVID-19 into, and between, homes by staff members.
The restriction caused significant upheaval because many employees worked at multiple sites to make full-time hours. They could no longer bounce between homes and the casual staffing pool operators relied on was limited.
Throughout the late summer and fall in Manitoba, as COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes mounted, facilities were short staffed and unprepared for the turmoil brought on by the virus, as employees were ordered into self-isolation due to exposure or because they were sick.
Manitoba Nurses Union president Darlene Jackson said that while the union is pleased to hear that vaccinated nurses will once again be able to work at multiple sites, the pandemic has shown that additional spending and investment to fund the long term care sector is necessary.
"(The union) knows that in order to achieve the equivalent of full-time employment many nurses hold down multiple part-time jobs at various sites," Jackson said in a statement. "For years, we have been emphatically seeking an increase in nursing patient care hours and other much-needed improvements in order to stop the exodus of nurses out of the sector.
"No system works well when staff are overstretched. Our nurses are beyond exhausted," Jackson said. "We believe residents deserve better. Our nurses deserve better. We need to incentivize and attract nurses into Manitoba to ensure proper standards of care are achievable, not just for today, but for our future."
Currently, anyone who works in a care home or in a congregate living setting is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba.
Stefanson said the majority of care home residents have received the vaccine and as such having vaccinated staff move between sites will be less risky for residents.
The province said the single-site order for staff who have not received the vaccine will remain in place until chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin determines it can be lifted.
The province said that decision will be made based on a number of factors, including case numbers, test positivity rates and the ongoing risk of COVID-19.
As of Monday, the provincial government had declared COVID-19 outbreaks at 12 care homes. There were 14 cases in staff and four cases in residents. Nine cases were still active and no deaths had been reported.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.