April 29, 2021

Canada’s Nurses: We are reaching a breaking point

On the eve of the National Day of Mourning and as the nation’s health care system teeters on the edge of collapse, Canada’s nurses are sounding the alarm.

April 27, 2021 (OTTAWA, ON) – On the eve of the National Day of Mourning and as the nation’s health care system teeters on the edge of collapse, Canada’s nurses are sounding the alarm. They are demanding governments take bold concrete steps to counter the third wave of COVID-19, which has left hospitals with little breathing room.

The situation is so critical that the medical community fears it may soon have to make decisions about who gets access to care – who lives and who dies.

“That’s not a position anyone wants to be in,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions.

To flatten the curve and give ICUs some reprieve, Silas said governments need to take decisive and aggressive action, including ramping down non-urgent care, limiting international and inter-provincial travel, and beefing up immunization, with an increased focus on fully vaccinating frontline nurses, health care workers and other essential workers. All options need to be on the table, she added.

And now more than ever, all workers, regardless of status, need easily accessible paid sick leave to safeguard their income whenever they are sick or need to self-isolate after a potential exposure.

“In a country as prosperous as ours, it’s unconscionable for us to put workers – especially low-paid essential workers – in a position where they have to choose between putting food on the table or potentially infecting others.”

Silas is also renewing an earlier call from April 2020, when the situation seemed almost as dire, for the federal government invoke the Emergencies Act to better safeguard our health care system. Doing so would allow for a more concerted effort across the country, especially at a time when provinces are calling on each other to send nurses and other health care workers. The current situation cries out for immediate federal leadership to coordinate all staff deployment efforts.

Canadians to do their part: stay home, wear a mask, and get vaccinated.

“During the first wave, Canadians were united in flattening the curve,” remarked Silas. “But now, even as the third wave is on track to be worse than the first two, people have become numb to the pandemic.”

This is not business as usual; the threat level is still just as acute, Silas added. Close to 85,000 health care workers have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic, and at least 50 have died, according to the CFNU’s tracking of public reports.

Canadians need to continue being vigilant and follow public health guidance, especially as deadlier variants of concern continue to spread.

“I get that people are fed up with lockdowns. But right now, one social gathering, one meetup with family, one play date – that’s like striking a match in a dry forest.

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The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.

For more information, please contact:
Ben René, brene@nursesunions.ca, 613-406-5962

Karyn Whelan, kwhelan@rnunl.ca, 709-691-0889