Unifor health care members gathered in Halifax September 28-30 to learn more about the issues facing health workers in Ontario and Nova Scotia.
“More than ever, our health care system needs defending and our health care workers need respect and support,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “We come together at this conference to build our power, to educate each other, and to use this collective power to advocate for every health care worker in the country.”
Representatives from the Canadian Health Coalition, Ontario Health Coalition and the Nova Scotia Health Coalition shared the focus of their activism and how Unifor members can plug into these campaigns to fight back against privatization, to advocate for a national pharmacare program and to save our public health funding.
Keynote speaker Dr. Monika Dutt, Medical Officer of Health and CEO at Timiskaming Health Unit past chair on the board of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, shared her hope for Unifor members to rally around the campaign for pharmacare and push local candidates ahead of the next federal election to make it a key platform issue.
The Health Care Conference is also a space to discuss the daily struggles of working in health care. In a workshop on managing stress in the workplace led by National Executive Board member Shauna Wilcox, members shared the challenges they face, like dealing with violent patients and residents, the lack of training for dealing with mental health issues, chronic under-staffing and under-resourcing, to name a few.
“Occupational stress is always a concern for health care workers and we need to come together to remind each other that we’re not alone and share strategies for coping,” said Wilcox.
Two Nova Scotia MLAs from the Nova Scotia NDP spoke about their initiatives for health care workers and patients, in a province that still has 100,000 people without a family doctor. Tammy Martin, MLA for Cape Breton Centre, was recently thrown out of the legislature for asking the Liberal government about emergency room closures and the plans to shut down an entire hospital. And Dave Wilson, MLA for Sackville-Beaverbank, spoke of his support for all health workers – not just first responders – to receive presumptive coverage for PTSD.
“We have the power to make real differences in the lives of health care workers, and that, in turn, will benefit every single patient, resident of a nursing home or long-term care facitlity and every member of all our families,” said Unifor Health Care Director Andy Savela. “We saw the power of our union recently at the Port Arthur Health Centre - we can continue to build this capacity and make all our lives healthier and safer.”