April 13, 2020
The Honourable Stephen McNeil, M.L.A.
Premier of Nova Scotia
I would like to preface my concerns with an expression of thanks, Premier, as I do believe that you and your government are working to protect Nova Scotians as we collectively navigate this pandemic. The measures that are currently being enacted, however, are contradictory to your goal of protecting the people of this province.
Unifor is formally expressing our concern for and opposition to the change in Public Health’s direction with respect to staff in Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities.
On Friday, April 10, 2020, Health Care unions were informed of changes in LTC directives. Staff in LTC facilities wherein residents or workers have tested positive for COVID-19 have been informed that they will no longer need to self-isolate for 14 days should they test negative and are asymptomatic. This change in directive is of great concern to our union.
On April 8, 2020, Dr. Robert Strang was quoted as saying: “Having to pull numbers of people out of the workforce […] creates significant strain on our health care system and challenges the ability to deliver essential care, but we also have to make sure that we are not putting patients or co-workers at any increased risk of transmitting this virus.” In that same article, Cape Breton physician Dr. Margaret Fraser was quoted as saying: “No tests are 100 per cent accurate and there will be false negatives, which is why staff have to self-isolate for 14 days even if their own tests are negative.”
I understand that a 14-day isolation period for workers in LTC facilities creates concern in terms of staffing and resources, however, it is imperative that these isolation periods are implemented as recommended if we are to stop the spread of this virus.
On March 18, I wrote to The Honourable Minster Randy Delorey, Minister of Health, and requested, among other things, premium pay for workers in Long-Term-Care, as existing staff shortages would certainly be exasperated by the pandemic. A premium pay initiative would incentivize workers to return to the sector, thereby alleviating staffing issues (See attached).
I urge you to reconsider this latest change from Public Health.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns..
Unifor Atlantic Regional Director