Who would have thought that 11 months later, this COVID-19 pandemic would still cripple our lives? 11 months during which we have seen hundreds of thousands of essential workers respond to the health and safety of the whole population hard hit by this pandemic. Among them are the healthcare professionals who are certainly the most affected by this pandemic. But if the current public health crisis gives the government special powers making our work more difficult, we are continuing our offensive at the media, legal and political level to defend the healthcare professionals who must work in this extraordinary context. Rest assured that the FIQ, FIQP and affiliated unions are working so the government and employers change their authoritarian approach with a more caring and attentive management style.
The government’s responsibility
After 11 months of pulling together, mobilizing and being united, the exhaustion and fatigue of the troops are evident. The result? There are fewer and fewer healthcare professionals in the health network and those still there are increasingly exhausted, demoralized and even revolted. This government and the employers in the network know that the healthcare professionals were faced, well before the pandemic, with difficult working conditions, including mandatory overtime. But by subjecting us further to forced labour, they are sending us a very different message than the one they give during regular press briefings. The ministerial orders giving employers coercive and inordinate powers are still in effect today.
The government must understand that the healthcare professionals need to be heard and supported.
Still fighting for basic protection
Occupational health and safety should not be part of the struggles that healthcare professionals must wage every day during a pandemic. However, this is still the case. Health and safety begin with the importance of allowing healthcare professionals to have time off and opportunities for rest. The fatigue, stress and workload they are experiencing require that they be able to take a break, as much as possible, to recharge their batteries.
Moreover, it is inconceivable that the government would continue to still refuse to provide all the adequate personal protective equipment, in accordance with the standards… and science. Blocking access to N95 masks is illogical and the government’s stubbornness is becoming extremely worrying. Why so much resistance to a request that only make sense? We won’t give up!
As for vaccination, many of you have raised questions in recent weeks, with reason. As healthcare professionals were in the priority groups, the changes in the government’s vaccination plan have sometimes lacked clarity and explanations leading to concerns. On several occasions, the FIQ has had to demand more transparency from the government in its vaccination strategy and arguments behind their decisions. If we want healthcare professionals to overwhelmingly subscribe to vaccination, they must have confidence in the process.
In the extremely difficult context, the double standard leading to inequities between the network personnel and that from the employment agencies has raised a lot of indignation on your part. Our organization shares this indignation, and for that reason we are putting pressure on the government to end this great injustice.
It is not normal that the healthcare professionals from agencies are entitled to regular schedules and on the shifts they want, while their colleagues in the public network are the only ones subject to 12-hour schedules, working full time even if they are incumbents of a part-time position or forced to work all the mandatory overtime, under order 007.
The government has given itself a lot of power in the name of the public health crisis. At a time when everyone is seeking solutions for keeping more personnel at work, there is no valid reason preventing the government from imposing new rules for the agencies and their personnel. Independent labour must be subject to the same working conditions as the public network healthcare professionals. There is no doubt for us that the government must take this decision if we want to be able to face the weeks and months ahead.
The offloading stage
The health network recently entered an unprecedented offloading stage. This offloading results in healthcare professionals being moved to settings with the most pressing needs. Unfortunately, some of the mistakes from the last few months are being repeated and we are already acting for the government and employers to quickly correct the situation.
Just a few days ago, at a meeting with the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, and Dr, Lucie Opatrny, Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, I personally insisted on the fact that offloading must be done in an orderly, intelligent and respectful manner of the healthcare professionals. We must ensure that those who need to go and help out have all the necessary support and training so that they can provide adequate and safe assistance for both them and the patients. Healthcare professionals have valuable expertise and skills, but they also have limits that must be respected. If you think that the offloading is not being done with a minimum of professional standards and it exceeds your limits, do not hesitate to report it to your union team. This will allow me to follow up quickly with the Minister of Health’s team and refocus the employers’ approach as soon as possible.
Many of you were stunned to hear the authorities talk this week about the possibility of reviewing some of the care provided in order to give more patients to nurses if that becomes necessary. This major offloading operation shows that the health network has been driven up against a wall and unfortunately, the answer does not lie in increasing the number of patients per healthcare professional, as they already have too many! But if different scenarios are under consideration, don’t let managers judge the relevance of what is good for patients or the network. Let’s involve those who are in the best position to make such important decisions. We have also given that message to Mr. Dubé’s team.
All the lights on the dashboard are red right now and the government must start turning them off if they want to get through this final stretch of the pandemic. Until now, healthcare professionals have made too many sacrifices in their personal and family lives and there are limits to this total self-sacrifice. Mr. Legault and Dubé must understand that the nurses, licensed practical nurses, respiratory therapists and clinical perfusionists are healthcare professionals who want to be recognized for the work they do, but they also want their needs respected.