While it’s been a long and ultimately forgettable year for most northwestern Ontario residents, it’s been an even longer year for our front-line healthcare staff; one they likely won’t forget.

Medical Officer of Health for the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, explained how difficult and stressful it’s been on essential front-line staff, who have all been working under very challenging conditions.

“This has been a challenging year for our staff. The staff of the Northwestern Health Unit have been working long hours under high-stress conditions for many months. There have been constantly changing guidelines and information to be understood and implemented.”

“Every situation, every case and every outbreak has been unique, and requires quick adaptation and critical thinking. With case and contact management and for answering questions on the hot-line, some of those conversations are very difficult and very emotional.”

“In addition to responding to cases, we’ve been working as much as we can to support other agencies and businesses to be prepared for when COVID-19 comes, and to help them prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“Even when exhausted, our staff with the Northwestern Health Unit keep on going.”

“All of our staff, whether they work in Infectious Diseases or not, have stepped up to whatever task is required to respond to this pandemic. We have staff from all areas working on the pandemic, and when they have time, they still have to do as much of their regular work as they can.”

“I want to thank the staff and applaud the staff with the Northwestern Health Unit for all of their hard work and effort to put their communities first. They’re tired, but they just keep on going.”

A recent study created by the Canadian Union of Public Employees highlighted a number of issues with Ontario’s healthcare system during the pandemic, including staff shortages, the inability to speak out about conditions, a lack of protective equipment and limited access to mental health supports.

The researchers warn that given intrinsic links between working conditions and patient care, the ongoing stress and burnout among healthcare workers is a cause of concern for all Ontarians.

Part of the study was to contact 10 healthcare workers in Ontario who were asked to describe the conditions they’ve been working under throughout the pandemic. Many responses included feelings of anxiety, stress, anger and fear. 3,000 CUPE members were also polled as part of the study.

Roughly 91 per cent of them said they felt the ‘government had abandoned them. The province says 10,144 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19 and 24 have died, according to government statistics.

For more information:
Health unit explains decision on location information
Healthcare study: staff feel ‘sacrificed’ to COVID-19