Greens call on Public Health Agency to implement more robust protections for front-line health-care workers

OTTAWA – The Green Party of Canada is urging the federal government and the Public Health Agency of Canada to implement more robust protections for front-line health-care workers dealing with the worsening COVID-19 emergency. 

“We must do everything possible to protect our front-line workers from this highly contagious virus,” said Green Party Interim Leader Jo-Ann Roberts. “During the 2003 SARS outbreak, more than 100 health-care workers in Toronto were infected and three of them died. Providing health-care workers with proper protection should not be a question of funds. This is no time to cut corners.”

A key finding of Ontario’s independent commission into the devastating SARS epidemic was that in the absence of scientific certainty about how an infectious illness is transmitted, all reasonable precautions must be taken. As Canada braces for the potential spread of COVID-19 across the country, nurses’ unions warn that most provinces aren’t doing enough to protect health-care workers.

The World Health Organization reiterated this week that health-care workers depend on personal protective equipment to prevent them and their patients from being infected, and from infecting other people.

Linda Silas, nurse and president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses across the country, said: “National public health agencies in the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom have called for contact, droplet and airborne precautions to protect health-care workers, deeming the illness of one health-care worker to be one too many."

“The global spread of COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation and there is still considerable uncertainty about how the disease is transmitted,” said Green Party parliamentary leader Elizabeth May (MP, Saanich-Gulf Islands). “This is exactly why we need to look at lessons learned from SARS. One of those was the importance of following the precautionary principle, which emphasizes safety, not just science. So until we know exactly how this disease is being transmitted, we need to ensure that we are vigorously protecting our front-line health-care workers.”

“The Public Health Agency says we need to be cautious about using up limited supplies of protective equipment,” said Ms. Roberts. “This is unsatisfactory. When SARS exposed weaknesses in the health-care system, Ontario learned that lesson and implemented more stringent guidelines. With the continuing spread of COVID-19 we are in uncharted territory. The protection of our health-care workers must be a priority.” 

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