OPSEU President demands stronger leadership from senior medical experts


TORONTO – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is demanding stronger leadership from Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. David Williams in the handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“What Canadians need now is the truth,” said Thomas. “The communication from the senior public health experts has been a tale of mixed messaging and confusion, this is a real failure of leadership.”

After a series of political and medical expert press conferences lead by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Tam and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Williams, Canadians are left shaking their heads at exactly what threat the COVID-19 infection poses to them and their loved ones.

“From Dr. Tam’s earlier statements that human-to-human transmission was not possible, to insisting there is no need to close borders or isolate visitors to our country, to an overall lack of preparedness – the handling of this pandemic has been a travesty.”

Since the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic, Canadians have received many conflicting messages from the nation’s medical experts about how to properly protect themselves from the virus, which has created great anxiety and fear.

“Canadians were first told that there’s no need for masks, then told that masks might be a good idea after all, this zig-zag messaging is a disaster and heads need to roll,” said Thomas.

Following the announcement by Dr. Tam that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted by asymptomatic persons, Canadians have grown increasingly concerned about the accuracy of testing in relation to the numbers of cases reported. There has also been no reassurance by the country’s senior medical experts about how to track the transmission of the virus, in this case.

“Your test is only as good as your last personal or physical contact. Does that mean that only daily or indeed hourly testing is enough? Or, as the asymptomatic theory suggests, is this simply a pre-emptive move against future workplace and civil claims?” asked Thomas.

The OPSEU President also pointed to Directive 5 issued earlier this week by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Williams, declaring that nurses represented by the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) were the only front-line health care workers able to determine and utilize applicable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including life-saving N95 masks. That directive was corrected late Thursday, and is now inclusive of all health care workers and their respective bargaining agents.

“I’m happy to say that after tremendous pressure was exerted by previously excluded unions, all health care workers now have access to PPEs during this crisis. That there is even an absence of a PPE stockpile is a failure of the senior health bureaucrats who are supposed to make sure we are always ready.”

Thomas emphasized that there are numerous front-line workers in long term care and public hospitals working with high-risk persons who would have suffered as a result of this previous Directive, calling it an unacceptable oversight on the part of Dr. Williams. There still remain vulnerable front line workers in the both the community and other institutional settings who desperately need protection.

“Politicians come and go. Folks like Dr. Tam and Dr. Williams have to be held to account for our lack of preparedness – this is on their watch.”

For more information:  Warren (Smokey) Thomas  613-329-1931