According to CBC News, the Manitoba government has asked junior crown attorneys, judicial assistance staff, and students to agree to be reassigned to the contact tracing.
Sources said staff have been asked to volunteer to help with the province’s pandemic response, but details of what roles judicial staff will play are not entirely clear.
A source told CBC that the switch will focus on contact tracing investigations and that the seconding will last until at least January.
The province would not say how many new employees are being hired, when the posting will begin, and whether the employees are conducting case investigations, contact notifications, or follow-up action.
A judicial spokesman said the provincial departments had been asked if they had staff who could be re-appointed.
“When departments can evaluate their work priorities and recruit staff, they will be added to the team working on the response and filling appropriate roles. This is part of a government-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesman wrote in an e- Mail.
The move comes as the Winnipeg COVID-19 case investigations continue to lag days behind positive test results, contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim that Manitoba has eliminated delays in contact tracing.
Nurse asks why she can’t help
And it’s a surprise to Wendy Graham, a retired licensed practical nurse who recently applied to be a contact tracer.
Graham still has her license and was working in a nursing home in Winkler earlier this year.
She said when she applied for a contact tracing position on the Shared Health website, her application was not accepted because her license expires in late November.
“I was just frustrated because it seemed ridiculous. It made no logical sense, if you’re so behind contact tracing, why wouldn’t you open that up to someone who wants to apply for it?” Graham said in a phone interview from Miami, Man.
“I hear about it on the news every night, but you won’t let me apply for it. Ridiculous, it’s just another illogical thing.”
The tracing should be done within 24 hours: doc
Zain Chagla, an infectious disease doctor in Hamilton, Ontario, said contact tracing exams should begin within 24 hours of someone getting a positive test result – not the four-day delay CBC reported Monday.
“If I’m positive, I’ll be tested for my symptoms for a few days, or I’ve probably infected some people by now. I get a result, and four days later my contacts know that they’re likely to be positive and peeling off.” And again we have already missed a potential opportunity to step in and quarantine people, “he said.
Chagla applauded the government for allocating more resources to contact tracing but said these could not be short-term deployments.
Dr. Zain Chagla said many countries that had fewer restrictions than Canada did better contact tracing. (Craig Chivers / CBC)
“When you open up again, you need these contact tracers to make sure that (when) things get out of hand again and that you can navigate and deal with things very quickly.”
The province announced in the past few days that it will improve its contact tracing ability.
The Canadian Red Cross has been called on to help with the COVID-19 case investigation, and Health Secretary Cameron Friesen said 134 new hires had been added earlier this week, while Statistics Canada is expected to have another 200 working over the next few weeks.
The extra help comes as Manitoba remains the worst per capita province when it comes to new cases of the virus.