KAWARTHA LAKES-A group of hospital workers who say they are “tired and fed up” held a rally outside of Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay today.
Ontario’s hospital allied and paramedical health professionals staged rallies against the Ford government and Bill 195 all across the province including Lindsay. Respiratory Therapists, MRI Technologists, Laboratory Technologists, Speech Language Pathologists, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Rehab Assistants, Pharacists, Social Workers and more than 250 different types of health and paramedical professionals say they are exhausted after working through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic under the emergency regulations passed by the Ford government. They say they’ve had vacations cancelled and worked weekends, weren’t given proper PPE, have been called back to work without notice, required to work if they have tested positive and are asymptomatic for COVID, and more.
“Health professionals are tired and fed up,” said Sara Labelle, chair of OPSEU’s Hospital Professionals Division which represents more than 25,000 hospital professionals across the province. “We have risked our health and safety, and that of our families. Thousands of us have tested positive for COVID-19. We have dealt with being retested week after week. We have worked weekends with no notice, lost our vacation time, and accommodated changes to plans over and over again. Yet the Ford government has ignored and disrespected us. We have had enough. Before a second wave, we are demanding key improvements to our health and safety, respect for our rights, and respect for the work that we do to help keep Ontarians safe.”
Union officials say Bill 195, which extends the emergency orders, overrides worker rights in areas including vacation, hours of work and opens up the possibility of contracting out their jobs. Bill 195 was introduced to the legislature last week. The government says it’s part of their plan to balance “cautiously” reopening the province with the ongoing effects of the virus.
The health professionals who took part in todays rallies were also not included when the province gave other staff in hospitals the pandemic premium, even though they say they too come into contact with Coronavirus positive patients.
“Yet without them, no diagnosis can happen, no COVID-19 tests would be processed, no blood drawn, no therapies to aide recovery, no treatments, no social work support, no medications distributed and much more. Still, the provincial government has refused to extend the pandemic premium to the health professionals. In the professions this is a fundamental matter of respect for the work they do and fairness in recognizing the vital role they play.” said officials in a press release.
“Despite working side-by-side with other hospital staff treating the same patients, who were given access to N95 masks and superior PPE, many of this group have not had appropriate access to PPE. Throughout the first wave, they have been required to wear the same masks and PPE until “visibly soiled” an unacceptable level of infection control and workplace safety.” the release went on to say.
They are making the following demands:
• The same pandemic pay that all of their colleagues in hospitals are getting.
• Access to a safe level of PPE and the development of a secure adequate supply chain.
• They oppose Bill 195 and the extension of the emergency regulations up to another year calling it a “power grab”.
Union officials are asking for support from the public to pressure the governement on this issue.