January 28, 2020 (OTTAWA, ON) – With one confirmed and one presumptive case of the novel (new) coronavirus in Canada, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions is expressing concern about uneven preparations for a potential pandemic at health care facilities across the country. Unionized nurses are calling on Canada’s public health agencies to protect frontline health care workers from 2019-nCoV, the novel coronavirus, by taking immediate coordinated action in accordance with the precautionary principle.
“SARS definitively taught us that protecting the public during a possible pandemic starts by protecting health care workers,” said Linda Silas, CFNU president. “Nurses unions are taking the lead by sharing information with our members and coordinating with other unions and government agencies to ensure we protect frontline health care workers and contain the disease.”
The CFNU is closely monitoring the situation, and has signaled to the Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization that guidelines being developed for 2019-nCoV must be based on the precautionary principle. Adopting this principle was the key recommendation in Justice Campbell’s post-SARS report. The principle holds that, in the absence of information about transmission and clinical severity, safety guidelines must ensure the health and safety of nurses first, to prevent them from spreading the disease to each other and patients.
“We failed to properly protect nurses during SARS in 2003, and two nurses died as a result, along with 42 other people. We must never repeat the mistakes of SARS – no one should ever go to work fearing for their lives,” concluded Silas.
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.