The president of the Canadian Medical Association says provinces like Alberta are “misleading” healthcare workers out of the toll the COVID-19 crisis is taking on the healthcare system.
Dr. Katharine Smart says there is a sense of hopelessness among healthcare workers in the country because their governments do not listen to them as they try to manage the pandemic and feel that no end is in sight.
“What is happening in the world when we have governments that are not willing to listen to the people who do the work?” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
He said that when politicians in the hardest hit jurisdictions talk about building more hospital capacity to deal with the large number of COVID-19 cases, healthcare workers feel that the public is not getting a complete picture because there is a lack of trained doctors and nurses able to adequately care for patients in these extra beds. He added that staff are denied time off and forced to work mandatory overtime to cover the shortage.
She also said healthcare workers expressed feeling that “there is a lot of gaslighting in Alberta” when officials talk about intensive care capacity. The term “gaslight,” which comes from a 1940s psychological thriller of the same name, means manipulating another person to the point of doubting their own sense of reality.
Canada is currently in a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, driven in part by a more communicable variant and has yet to achieve herd immunity through vaccines.
82% of Canadians eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 88% of those eligible had received at least one dose.
Top federal and provincial health officials say those who are not fully immunized are for the most part patients who need intensive care and hospital admission for contracting COVID-19.
The physicians organization joined the Canadian Nurses Association for an emergency summit Tuesday with healthcare workers discussing how to move forward, as COVID-19 cases surge in some parts of the country, leading to health systems on the brink.
Together, they called on governments to address the staff shortage in Canada through better retention and recruitment efforts, as well as to provide “immediate relief” to those working in COVID-19 hot spots.
The organizations also want governments to commit to protecting health systems from collapse by taking the necessary public health measures to prevent further spread of the virus and empowering school boards to do the same.
The president of CMA condemns the ‘gaslighting’ of health workers for the cost of COVID-19. #CMA #CFN # Covid19 #Health workers
“People are really tired of health care being the political hot potato that is passed between levels of government: the federal government blames the provinces, the provinces blame the federal government and no one really intervenes, takes care of the problems. , declares what it is and shows leadership to move forward, “said Smart.
Smart says the liberal government could do more outreach to healthcare workers, as well as provide a framework for the provinces when it comes to responding to COVID-19 as it did with medical assistance to die.
He also highlighted the need for a “functional national vaccine passport or certificate.”
The federal government announced in August that it would develop such a document for international travel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Ottawa is working with the provinces to standardize the vaccination test that people would use to access non-essential businesses and entertainment venues.
Tim Guest, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, said Tuesday that the healthcare sector faces a “huge data gap” in knowing what resources are available to them and what the workforce is like across the country. He said the federal government, which transfers health funds to the provinces, should remedy this.
Organizations are particularly concerned about the increase in surgical delays and the effect it will have on the quality of life of patients in the coming years.
According to Health Canada data, Alberta and Saskatchewan have the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases among the provinces.
Prime Minister Jason Kenney admitted that Alberta’s United Conservative Party government was wrong when it lifted virtually all health restrictions over the summer. Saskatchewan Prime Minister Scott Moe hasn’t said as much, despite making similar decisions.
“One of the real things we heard and a theme from last night is that healthcare workers want our leaders to be honest. They want them to acknowledge what they are hearing from frontline workers,” Smart said.
Organizations say that the well-being of healthcare workers is also the most important, as they report feeling exhausted, demoralized and understaffed for more than 18 months in a row.
The CMA and other organizations are already working together to pressure the government to create a national health personnel agency to better plan for the future of health human resources, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses.
His organization wanted the summit to continue to focus its advocacy work on the health worker shortage, which has been exacerbated by the burnout of nurses and other workers leaving the industry entirely.
Silas said nurses are feeling overburdened and overwhelmed and that is affecting the level of care they can provide to their patients.
“Guilt weighs so heavily on their shoulders and they feel heavy all the time because they can’t do their job properly,” he said.
He said the summit not only addressed hospital issues, such as delays in surgical operations and overcrowded ICU beds, but also the impact the pandemic has had on long-term care and home care.
This Canadian Press report was first published on October 6, 2021.