Government negligence and naivety is straining health care to the breaking point | #socialmedia

For many of us, COVID-19 seems to be in the rear-view mirror. On a provincial level, the Ontario government has ended daily COVID reporting and lifted most masking requirements. And on a federal level, our government has announced that proof of vaccination is no longer required at the airports. Simply put, the measures once used to protect us from the spread of this virus have since been abandoned.

Many of us have contracted COVID and recovered. But what has not recovered is our crumbling health-care system that is being burdened with the consequences of this governmental negligence and naivety.

Hospital wait times, especially in emergency rooms, are at a record high. Doctors say our emergency departments are under more stress than ever. Hospital wards are filled to capacity with understaffing problems. Surgeries and procedures are immensely backlogged. These all point to a hospital crisis that we are seeing, despite the decrease in COVID-19 cases. Safe to say, our hospital system is overrun.

So, where do we stand now?

I was recently able to speak with Dr. Naheed Dosani, health equity lead at Kensington Health, for his take on these alarming trends. “I think we’re in a very vulnerable position when it comes to the state of our health-care system,” said Dosani. “Our system has gone through a lot of stress, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. But we must remember we are in this situation because of the underfunded state of our health-care system before the pandemic. What we are seeing now is a ‘domino effect’ resulting from that.”

He added that “there is a significant understaffing crisis, as well as significant health-care worker burnout, which is often manifesting as moral injury and compassion fatigue. This has created a ‘perfect storm’ situation where we are seeing a health-care system that is under severe strain.”

This crisis urgently needs the attention of our government, said Dosani. He voiced his disappointment that health care was not a more significant issue in the recent provincial election. Like many of his colleagues, he is concerned about patients being put in situations where their care teams are understaffed, which is why Bill 124 needs to be repealed by the Ontario government.

Bill 124 caps yearly salary increases to no more than one per cent. For the past two years, this legislation has been discouraging to many of those who have stepped up, especially nurses. According to Dosani, “this bill is essentially a tool for wage suppression that has led many nurses to leave the profession, which has led to more understaffing, further worsening health-care strain. This is something that needs to be addressed.”

Workers are getting sick, further impacting our already crowded health-care system.

Therefore, he is continuing to advocate for paid sick days, as Ontario’s temporary paid sick-day program will come to an end on July 31. “Throughout the pandemic, front-line workers have given their all, sacrificed their health, and dedicated themselves to ensure we all can stay safe,” said Dosani. “As this program is set to expire in July, it is paramount that we protect the health of workers through the implementation of 10 permanent employer-paid sick days. Ontario’s workers deserve this, at the very least.”

There is still much uncertainty around the pandemic, but what is certain is that our fragile health-care system cannot handle the stress of another wave. We need to make health care a priority. If the Ontario government is really interested in fixing our health-care system, they will look at supporting health-care workers by repealing Bill 124 and providing paid sick days as important steps to reducing the strain.

Ruby Latif is a Toronto-based community mobilizer, Liberal strategist and a contributing columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rubylatif

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