This week, June 15 to 21, is Health Professionals’ Week and we salute Ontario’s courageous allied health professionals who are working hard to help keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crisis has driven home the critical role our health care system and the sacrifices health care workers are making to provide the best possible care. Ontarians have been loud and proud in praising their health care heroes.
These times of the pandemic are often called “challenging.” That’s certainly true. But it’s a gross understatement when you’re working gruelling eight-hour or 12-hour day shifts or longer on the front lines of health care, putting your life on the line and coming into direct and prolonged contact with COVID-19 patients. Then you rush home to take up household chores, homeschool your kids and try to get countless other things done before another long day begins.
This is the reality for most of our 25,000 Hospital Professionals Division (HPD) members. It’s exhausting and it’s taking an enormous physical and mental toll on our members and their families.
Adding insult to injury is the unfair exclusion of HPD classifications from the pandemic premium. It tells HPD workers that they’re not deserving of special recognition, and it is disheartening when they work side-by-side with people who are getting the extra pay.
The pandemic is far from over, particularly in long-term care, within the migrant farm community, in meat-packing workplaces and elsewhere. As confinement eases, scientists warn of second and third waves. This is not the time to become complacent.
But pandemic pay is not the only thing our allied health professionals have been told to go without. Many don’t even have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to do their jobs safely. In fact, it’s got to the point where there are more health care workers with COVID-19 than actual patients.
Instead of PPE, they’re getting watered-down directives. It almost seems as if the lessons and recommendations that came out of the SARS epidemic have been forgotten as health care workers are forced to perform under hazardous conditions.
OPSEU has been working to get Premier Ford, Health Minister Elliott and Treasury Board President Bethlenfalvy to understand the reality of our hospital professionals and get them the recognition, compensation and protection they need and deserve.
We’ve organized rallies and Twitter storms to bombard them with our demands to act justly and responsibly towards some of the hardest-working members of Ontario’s workforce.
We’re often told we’re all in this together, and it’s absolutely true: Solidarity has never been more important and can make all the difference. Please show yours by contacting the Premier at firstname.lastname@example.org, the minister at email@example.com and the Treasury Board President at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can fix this.
On behalf of OPSEU’s Executive Board, the HPD Divisional Executive, the union’s 165,000 members and all Ontarians, we express our deep gratitude to all our caring and committed allied health professionals, and assure you of our tireless efforts to get you equal protection and equal recognition.
Stay the course, stay strong, stay committed, stay safe.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President of OPSEU
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
Chair, Hospital Professionals Division