Vancouver Island first responders planning for staffing crunches due to Omicron variant

Vancouver Island first responders planning for staffing crunches due to Omicron variant

First responders are the ones we call when we need help the most, but as COVID-19’s Omicron variant spreads rapidly in B.C., first responders are being hit as well.

“We’re operating right now with about a 10 per cent reduction or total impact on the workforce, which is changing on a daily basis,” said Saanich Fire Chief Mike Burgess.

But the provincial health officer warned earlier this week, it could get much worse.

“As many as a third of your workforce at any one time may at any time become ill from COVID and may not be able to come to work,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday.

READ MORE: B.C. reports 3,144 COVID cases, 475 in Island Health

As a result, front-line responders are making emergency plans to be ready for staffing shortages.

“Certainly with our own staffing resources we’re making adjustments and we also have the ability to work with those neighbouring fire to support each other as needed,” said Burgess.

In Victoria, the police department has been struggling with staffing issues for the last year and a half, and now Omicron is adding further strain.

“As of this weekend, the Victoria Police Department will be deploying additional resources officers to the front lines as a precaution,” said VicPD Chief Del Manak.

For the first time in VicPD’s history, it’s enacting a contract clause with the union allowing for reassignment of all officers to patrol, to help answer calls if needed.

“We’re taking some bold steps proactively, recognizing that the next week or the next few weeks could be tough, and we could have a number of officers that are in isolation as a result of contracting COVID,” said Manak.

READ MORE: B.C. will move ahead with in-person classes for K-12 students on Monday

For Saanich Police, the staff that can are now working from home with all in-person meetings cancelled, all staff working with the public must conduct a self-assessment before coming in, and patrol officers are now riding solo.

The B.C. RCMP told CHEK News they will be able to ensure proper staffing levels are maintained.

“The RCMP has surge capacity and is able to pull from resources around the province,” said Sgt. Chris Manseau in a statement.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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