OP-ED – COVID-19

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I was going to visit an ill friend this past Saturday, but St. Michaels Hospital’s 9th Floor was isolated with a COVID-19 outbreak. This also has happened on the first floor of La Verendrye Hospital (Riverside) in Fort Francis and also the West Wing of Rainycrest was added to a large list of COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the nation. The usual precautions are taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but are not limited to:

  • General visitors will be restricted to bottom floors of hospitals.
  • Palliative patients can have up to 4 visitors, two at a time, plus 1 essential caregiver.
  • Cohorting of staff (those exposed will be separated from non exposed medical staff).
  • N95 masks are essential for staff and visitors in all designated areas.

Emergency Units in many hospitals are closing down for periods of a few days to a week and beyond throughout the nation, especially in medical centres and hospitals in rural and small town locations. Lack of needed staff and overall staff personnel fatigue are reasons for this continual action. Staff are often taking vacations or just not returning to their employers. The lack of professional assistance, better pay and working conditions seem to persist throughout our medical facilities.

Bill 124 has brought about controversy within the Health Ministry for various public sector unions and hospital staff members. Limiting pay increases to 1% annually has led the medical and nursing staff of Ontario’s hospitals to call for both legal and labour action. They have been staffing our hospitals all this time, and the pandemic continues to spread its viral tentacles with no end in sight.

All the weaknesses in our health system before the pandemic have been and continue to show themselves. Various governments seem unwilling to spend the needed funds to not only fight this virus, but also to strengthen the health system we rely upon with better wages, training more replacement workers en masse, extending COVID protocols within the system, and investigating those seniors’ homes that failed their patients in 2020-2021.

For many of our national and regional governments, the health portfolio has been and continues to be seen as a money pit, sucking up funds that many administrations could use elsewhere.

Working in a hospital is a profession, and not charity. Paying our experienced staff will keep them here where they are needed, not just now but in the near future too. Many hospitals are receiving newbie staff without the necessary experience essential to carry on. Experienced medical staff are very much like essential managers who show their new associates how things get done. Many of our governments are at fault, putting budgetary concerns before the welfare of our neighbours. This is a global issue. Statistics place the need for new nurses within the region of the Caribbean at 7,500+, and in LatinCentral America, a further 18,330+. Imagine how many skilled medical professional passed away due to the pandemic, tens of thousands and growing daily. All of our hospitals are full, and medical professionals, namely family doctors, are still unprepared to deal with this pandemic, sending many of their patients to emergency centres. A true catastrophe, while many administrations pretend that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Steven Kaszab
Bradford, Ontario

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