On a day the province marked another 13,807 new cases, a record number that masks the true scale of Ontario's COVID-19 infection rate, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) says the government is waving a white flag and surrendering its efforts to keep on top of data, testing, serious public health measures, and ultimately, the health of Ontarians.
"What Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced Thursday tells us that big business interests are a priority over the future of our children, and this is tragic," decries Dr. Doris Grinspun, CEO of RNAO, adding that "we are gambling the future of the next generation."
"We know which direction the numbers are heading and it's only going to get worse given the very weak public health measures announced today, says Grinspun – insisting that important measures missed include closing large sports venues, shopping malls and big box stores. It is now a question of when, not if, hospital health-care services will collapse. Ontarians who will urgently require those services and health-care workers have been abandoned by the Ford government."
RNAO's CEO says "that we share the goal of keeping schools open, but non-essential large gatherings should be closed so that we can keep schools safe and health-care services viable. Given that the government is not imposing proper public health-care measures and yet decided to reopen schools, they must provide KN95 masks to all children as most families can't afford the cost of them. We know that three-ply cloths masks – in schools where proper investments in ventilation and physical distancing have not happened – do little to protect children from Omicron, which is an airborne virus," says Grinspun.
RNAO says the changes to the government's testing requirements – including cutting the recommended isolation period from 10-days down to five days for those who are fully vaccinated – is an admission that Ontario's testing system is overwhelmed. "Without a Plan B, people who are sick and or who are asymptomatic but suspect they may have Omicron are on their own," says Grinspun, adding the reality is some people will self-isolate and take the necessary precautions to prevent further spread; but many can't afford to miss work and their families will once again pay the price as happened in previous waves.
RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth says the government's efforts to keep the virus at bay in Ontario's long-term care (LTC) homes by mandating a fourth booster for residents, and a mandatory third booster for LTC workers is necessary and welcome news. Hoffarth adds staffing challenges remain a serious concern. We have asked Premier Ford repeatedly to #RepealBill124, which would go a long way towards restoring hope among nurses and other health-care providers. The premier's silence on this is appalling and humiliating."
Hoffarth said nurses are also gravely disappointed that Thursday's announcement offers no assurance for those working in a health system weighed down by growth in COVID-19 infections. "We are seeing unparalleled rise in case numbers, a jump in the number of people who need a hospital bed, people who need intensive care, and all that requires the expert care of RNs. But guess what, our colleagues are running on empty. Tragically, today's announcement is the preamble to the total collapse of Ontario's health-care system," concludes Hoffarth.
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public we serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
- 30 -