CALGARY -- Staffing numbers continue to dwindle at the Foothills Medical Centre as nearly 300 workers have now been forced into self-isolation due to outbreaks of COVID-19. 

Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirms five units at the hospital in northwest Calgary have infections of the disease and there are major concerns regarding the quality of patient care. 

As of Tuesday, five new patients have tested positive bringing the total number of cases at the hospital —including patients, staff and visitors — to 69.

Staff shortages at the hospital have forced hospital employees to work overtime hours and reschedule shifts to help cover vacancies. 

A lack of staff and reduced in-patient capacity led to the postponement of 39 surgeries on Monday and another nine surgeries on Tuesday. 

Enhanced visitor restrictions and deep cleaning protocols remain in place at the hospital with limitations on visits to only essential or end-of-life circumstances. 

The initial cause of the outbreaks remains under investigation as AHS has multiple teams working to find out how the virus may have been transmitted and who may still need to be contacted or tested to limit exposure.  

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents 3,500 workers at the Foothills Medical Centre, and the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA), which represents 1,500 nurses, are calling on the province for more support. 

Both groups are demanding that AHS reinstate special paid leave for health-care workers forced to self-isolate, a benefit that had been in place earlier in the pandemic.

According to UNA, nurses forced to self-isolate have to use up almost all of their sick days and part-time or casual nurses don’t get paid for the forced isolation period.