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March 16, 2020

COVID-19: Message to members from Linda Silas


Dear members,

As I write this, it’s clear that our country has been shaken by COVID-19. As of this morning, every Canadian province is currently grappling with cases of the disease. Whether or not you are treating potential cases, it’s clear that our work will change over the coming days, weeks and months. Elective surgeries will be rescheduled, visitors will be curtailed, meetings will be postponed. Indeed, the CLC convention, which was scheduled for the week of May 3 in Vancouver, will also have to be rescheduled.

Since the specter of COVID-19 first entered our lives, the CFNU has been loudly advocating for the precautionary principle to be the first and foremost consideration during this pandemic. During the SARS outbreak in 2003, two-thirds of nurses felt that their health and safety had been compromised.

That was unacceptable then, and it’s unacceptable now.

Last week, I joined other labour leaders from the health care sector in calling for better health and safety precautions for all health care workers. Earlier today, I joined the Canadian Nurses Association in a joint letter to the Federal Health Minister and the Chief Public Health Officer, advising them to err on the side of caution and to send immediate funds to health care authorities to they can urgently address the supply of PPEs.

At the same time, the CFNU has been publicly supporting calls for social distancing and other public awareness campaigns. By practicing social distancing, science tells us we can help curtail the spread of the virus and keep our health care system from becoming overwhelmed during this pandemic.

Tell your friends and families: if you want to do something to help nurses in this difficult time, stay home. As you know, our system was already functioning at capacity – we were already, sadly, practicing hallway medicine. Social distancing, washing your hands and staying home if sick – these are things that will give our health care system a fighting chance to treat every patient that comes through the door.

At the CFNU, we will continue to deliver the same level of service you’ve come to expect from us. If you need us, you can reach us. That won’t change. Technology is amazing!

The scope of this pandemic is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It is sure to change our way of life for the foreseeable future. Workers of all stripes will be affected by the impacts to our economy. That’s why CFNU will join the CLC in demanding easier access to EI, paid sick leave, childcare benefits and strategies to protect our investments, such as our mortgages and retirement plans. We must do everything we can to make sure that the most vulnerable among us – Aboriginal Peoples, the working poor (which includes many new immigrants and refugees), the homeless, seniors and disabled persons living on fixed incomes – aren’t devastated by this crisis.

In his report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, Justice Campbell credited health care workers – their courage, sacrifice and personal initiative – as “the only thing that saved us from this crisis”. I have no doubt that our members will get us through this crisis once more.

There will be trying times ahead. So now more than ever, please stay safe and take care of each other.

In unwavering solidarity,

Linda Silas
Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions