Nursing Week 2020: Nurses Must Advocate for Our Patients and Each Other

Publish date: Monday, May 11, 2020

COVID-19

Health and safety

MNU members

MNU President

Nursing week

Put Patients First

Dear Members,

May 11 to 17 marks National Nursing Week in Canada. It’s a week to celebrate the work of nurses, and is particularly poignant this year as Manitobans continue to reel from the impacts of COVID-19.

As always, Manitoba’s nurses are committed to caring for their patients, and they demonstrate that commitment time and again when they stand in line to be screened for COVID-19, pushing their own fears and anxieties aside just to go to work. On behalf of the Manitoba Nurses Union, I want to say thank you for your courage and commitment.

As a nurse with 38 years of experience, I have been heartened by the acts of recognition and support emanating from the broader community. From postal workers driving by the Health Sciences Centre and The Grace Hospital in Winnipeg, to businesses donating goods and services to health care workers, the support from the community has been truly amazing and I also want to thank Manitobans for rallying behind nurses during these difficult times.

While the public support has been amazing, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that not all is well with the COVID-19 response to date. Many nurses don’t have the tools they need to do their jobs during this difficult time, and many more feel unsupported by the provincial government.

At times like this, nurses must advocate. And it’s important that we don’t simply rely on others to advocate on our behalf. Each nurse has their own voice, and each nurse has the ability to take a stand. One nurse speaking out can make a difference, but thousands of nurses standing together can be a powerful force to create the change we need in this province. 

MNU has been advocating forcefully on your behalf, and we will continue to do so. But we need the help of individual nurses to make our collective voice louder and more powerful. 

SEND A LETTER at putpatientsfirst.ca

Thousands of nurses and supporters have already visited putpatientsfirst.ca to send a letter to government demanding action on a number of important issues. If you haven’t yet added your name to the call, please take a minute to do it today. We must not stay silent. Below are just a few of the areas where we have been speaking out recently.

Personal Protective Equipment

We remain deeply concerned about the state of Manitoba’s personal protective equipment, and the lack of transparency about PPE stocks from the Manitoba government and Shared Health. In addition to constantly changing, contradictory and often confusing guidelines on PPE use, we also know that Shared Health continues to scale back PPE requirements at a time when they ought to be enhancing them.

It’s time for the Pallister government to come clean about PPE stock levels. A reuse policy is a rationing policy, and both the WHO and the CDC note extended use should only be employed in a crisis situation. Further, nurses must be allowed to use their own clinical judgement about what PPE they need to safely treat patients. If rationing is taking place, then it’s time to bring nurses into the discussion.

Nurses must have adequate access to PPE. This issue must be resolved before we prepare for a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

Presumptive Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Last month, the province announced some limited measures for paid administrative leave for non-symptomatic health care workers forced to self-isolate due to exposure at work. However, as soon as nurses test positive for COVID-19, they face an uphill battle trying to prove that they contracted the virus at work, or WCB won’t cover them. It doesn’t make sense to penalize health care workers who develop symptoms.

Health care workers are putting themselves at risk to flatten the curve. That’s why we are demanding presumptive WCB coverage for all symptomatic health care workers. They shouldn’t have to worry about whether they will get paid if they get sick.

Personal Care Home Single Site Order

For the next six months, nurses and other health care workers who work at multiple sites are being limited to working at a single personal care home (PCH). While MNU supports limiting the risk of exposure to COVID-19 across all health care facilities, we are concerned about how this measure was put in place, the potential impact on the care of residents in those facilities, and what impact it could have on the livelihood of nurses.

This decision was made without meaningful consultation and suspends many hard-earned rights of nurses. Nurses may not be able to select their preferred facility, and they may have their schedules changed at the whim of employers. We’ve heard from nurses who are concerned that residents won’t get adequate care due to short staffing in some facilities. At a time when so much is being asked of nurses, the least the government could do is bring us to the table to work through the challenges and concerns nurses have in implementing this plan.

Pandemic Premium

Without a doubt, nurses deserve a raise. Nurses have been without a contract for over three years, while the Pallister government throws up anti-labour roadblocks like Bill 28 and Bill 29.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic declaration, we were hopeful that bargaining would finally start this spring. Unfortunately, we now expect the COVID-19 pandemic to further delay bargaining.

Premier Pallister has noted much he appreciates the work of nurses during this challenging time, but his actions over the last 4 years haven’t backed it up. Nurses haven’t seen a wage increase in more than 3 years, while workload has only increased.

That’s why, during the pandemic, we have called for a COVID-19 premium for all nurses to recognize the additional, varying challenges nurses are facing right now. But further, it’s time for the government to recognize the hard work nurses put in every shift, every day. They must come to the bargaining table, and bargain a fair deal that shows nurses respect.

These are just some of the many issues nurses have faced in recent months, and we know that before the pandemic hit, many nurses were struggling with dramatically increased workload, excessive overtime, short-staffing and many other issues.

This National Nursing Week, join me in celebrating nurses by demanding that the Pallister government take action to protect patients, nurses and all health care workers. By standing together, we can be an unstoppable force for positive change.

Visit putpatientsfirst.ca to show your support for increased access to PPE, paid leave and a boost to long-term care hours for our vulnerable seniors while we fight this pandemic.

Thank you for your extraordinary efforts during these unprecedented times.

In solidarity,
Darlene Jackson
President
Manitoba Nurses Union

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