The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) joins its nursing colleagues and the entire health-care community in mourning the death of RN Brian Beattie. Brian, who was 55-years-old, was an expert mental health nurse who worked at Kensington Village.
On May 12, 2020, International Nurses Day and the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, Brian lost his battle with COVID-19. He is the first Ontario RN to die from the virus. RNAO joins all RNs, NPs and RPNs across the province in a heartfelt thank you to Brian for selflessly caring for our most vulnerable seniors, and ultimately giving his life to ensure the safety of theirs. RNAO sends its deepest condolences to Brian’s personal and work families. Please know that Brian’s legacy of outstanding service will inspire us all to continue fighting COVID-19.
On March 22, following several discussions with Ontario’s medical officer of health, RNAO publicly called on the government to mandate universal masking for all frontline providers, and specifically insisted nursing homes be first to receive adequate supplies, given shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE). RNAO’s advocacy on this and other matters related to safety in health-care settings has been steadfast, loud and clear. With consistency, we have said our success in beating COVID-19 will be measured, in part, by how well we protect our health-care workers.
We don’t know the circumstances that led to Brian’s death from COVID-19. What we do know is that he is no longer here for his family, friends, residents and their families. He is no longer with us to care for the colleagues so valiantly fighting the same virus that has taken his life.
Reflecting back more than 17 years, Ontario nurses were devastated to say goodbye to 44 Ontarians, including two selfless RNs and one physician during SARS. That raw feeling of grief lives with us to this day. When we struggled through SARS, and marked the passing of RNs Nelia Laroza and Tecla Lin in 2003, our hearts were heavy, but our resolve was strong to do whatever we could to ensure tragedy would not strike again. Collectively, in Ontario and around the world, we have not fulfilled our promise to keep all providers safe. We have lost eight health workers in Ontario: an environmental services employee at a hospital, six PSWs, and on May 12, the day Florence Nightingale was born, we lost one of our own Nightingales and an irreplaceable member of our RN team.
As we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, we must honour the lives of those lost, including Brian and the thousands of others in our long-term care sector, one of the hardest hit sectors that is also one of our most vulnerable.
The time is now – there is absolutely no time to waste – to ensure our dedicated care providers, particularly PSWs, RPNs, RNs and NPs in long-term care, have the PPE they need to safely provide care to residents who expect and deserve the best. As we look in the rear-view mirror at the devastation this pandemic has caused to this vulnerable sector, it will be critical to rethink our approach to long-term care, if we are ever to ensure the safety of residents and their staff.
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 they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.