As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly throughout the province, nearly twice as many health-care workers called in sick last week as in the same period in 2021.

Between Jan. 3 and 9, in all health authorities except Island and Interior, Health Minister Adrian Dix said 14,591 health-care staff called in sick with either COVID-19, similar symptoms or other illness. Last year, 7,573 called in sick in that same week.

“This is significant and I want to say what it means for our system,” Dix said in a pandemic briefing on Friday.

“This is an immensely challenging time when you have, incrementally, 10,000 more health-care workers off sick in a given week, either one day or more. That has an impact on services and we are adapting everywhere.”

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B.C. COVID-19 — Hospitalization rates still soaring, risk growing for unvaccinated

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More than 500 scheduled, non-urgent surgeries have been postponed in B.C. since the start of the month to ease the burden on hospitals as COVID-19 admissions soar and staff are redeployed to essential areas of care.

“The biggest sacrifice is being made by the people who provide that care, but more importantly, the people receiving surgery and their families,” said Dix.

Across the province, between Jan. 3 and 9, a total of 21,517 health-care workers called in sick due to illness of all kinds, resulting in 27,937 missed shifts. Between Jan. 10 and 12, Dix added, there were 11,010 health-care workers away from work due to illness.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: B.C. changing the way it presents hospital numbers due to Omicron variant'

COVID-19: B.C. changing the way it presents hospital numbers due to Omicron variant

COVID-19: B.C. changing the way it presents hospital numbers due to Omicron variant

There are about 188,000 active health-care workers in the province.

Despite a surge in illness among that staffing pool, Dix said British Columbians in need of care should not be discouraged.

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“Yes, we need to be patient in these times, but the amount of health care being delivered is unprecedented at every level. Our health-care workers are producing more output than ever before,” he explained.

“If you need care, get care. Don’t stay home, don’t wait…. Do not be deterred by this.”

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In response to the record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, B.C. announced Friday it’s changing the way it reports on hospitalization to better reflects the pandemic’s impact on hospitals.

Between December 2021 and Jan. 11 in Vancouver Coastal Health, about 45 per cent of people admitted to hospitals with a positive COVID-19 test discovered it incidentally, while 50 per cent were admitted because of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

Both will now be included in hospitalization reporting, in addition to people who caught COVID-19 inside the hospital, people who were hospitalized due to social circumstances, and people from outside of B.C. who are hospitalized in B.C. due to COVID-19.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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