Health and Seniors Care Workers Speak About Their Concerns

Vicki McKenna, President, Ontario Nurses' Association

The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched registered nurse and health care professionals beyond what was thought possible. Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) members are suffering record levels of burn out, fatigue and are increasingly experiencing moral and emotional distress from the demands on them and what they have witnessed their patients, residents and clients experience.

ONA has from the beginning taken every action possible to advocate for members' health and safety. ONA raised the issue with the Province of the spread in long-term care homes before a pandemic was declared. Having learned the lessons of SARS -- that is, ensuring the precautionary principle is used to keep patients and the staff who care for them safe -- ONA has been unrelenting in its fight for protections. At times, when negotiations with government were not successful, ONA has turned to the courts -- successfully -- to force for-profit long-term care homes to equip their staff with personal protective equipment.

As mental health in Ontarians and among health care workers declines, nurses can turn to the Nurses' Health Program developed in conjunction with other nursing organizations. ONA notes that the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions has resources available as well.

Sadly, the calls of ONA and its members for measures to address the nursing shortage and improve long-term care have been ignored, and the result has been made clear during the pandemic. If there is anything good to come from COVID-19, nurses hope that it will be improvements in Registered Nurse staffing levels, long-term care and a bolstering of our public health system. The pandemic has shown more clearly than ever that nurses remain the backbone of our health care system.

(Photo: ONA)

This article was published in

April 26, 2021 - No. 33

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