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Danny Cavanagh: We can do better in health care

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The COVID –19 crisis has brought to light many things that are wrong in our workplaces.

I am not placing blame, but I am asking that we all look ahead to do better. Our unions have been raising many issues to fix the system of health care overall, including long-term care.

In Nova Scotia most long-term care is a for profit business publicly funded by government.

When the unions did campaigns on increasing the hours of care in long-term care, it fell on deaf ears. Report after report was filed with governments at all levels pointing to issues and very little changed. There was even a Commission that brought to light a number of things, but again, it had no teeth to force change.

The elderly do not deserve the bare minimum in care and services in homes focused on profits.

In Nova Scotia there is a campaign to increase the resident to staff ratio to 4:1 hours of care per day in long term care facilities.

The crisis in health care, including long-term care homes has been worsening for years and our unions have been pointing that out for just as long. The reality is that when problems and issues were raised by the thousands of workers on the front lines they essentially have been ignored and not by their unions.

The reality is that when working conditions are degraded, the quality of services suffer. The current COVID-19 Pandemic has shined its bright light on the crisis and it’s time for us to stand up and demand better from our governments.

We must take action to do better and hold elected leaders accountable to do better.

As of April 28th, ten of the provinces long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia had 218 residents and 95 staff members with confirmed cases of COVID-19. On April 27th the Northwood facility had 199 residents and 71 staff members affected by the virus. Of the 27 deaths nearly, all have been in nursing homes. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go out to the families.

We all must challenge ourselves to do better, to demand better from our tax-dollars so we can have the best care possible for our seniors and working conditions for the heroes working in the system. One can only imagine the stress and pressure on families and the staff who are doing their best.

Our health care system needs national standards, and increased funding from the federal government. It’s time to eliminate profit from all of health care including long term care, home care, residential care and group homes. All those segments of the system must be brought under the Canada Health Act.

It is time to look at a national benefit plan for all workers, including a defined benefit pension plan. It is abundantly clear that when this pandemic is over, we must not go back to the way things were.

When this is over, we cannot listen to those right-wing voices rally against the heroes of today. When we see the millionaires and billionaires on TV and our politicians talk about the “heroes” we all must hold them accountable to remember the real heroes with much more then “feel good” words.

The precarious workers in the healthcare system deserve full-time jobs and better pay and benefits. The system must be funded properly, and we must always have at hand enough PPE and safety equipment for workers.

Let’s all remember just how quickly one virus can turn our world upside down. COVID 19 has shown us that it is our front-line workers providing a broad range of services that are so vital to our everyday life. They all deserve better and we can do better when it comes to showing some real respect for all those heroes of today.  Let’s not throw them on the trash heap tomorrow.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

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