With more than 800 registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP), nursing students, politicians and guests from all over Ontario and beyond joining us virtually, RNAO celebrated almost a century of success in health care and nursing at our 96th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on June 24-26.
This week we consider the shocking status of vaccine inequity from a global perspective. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said recently that the world is at risk of 'vaccine apartheid'. The WHO chief highlighted that at least 63 million doses of vaccines have been shipped to 124 countries and economies, but they represent just 0.5 per cent of the combined population of those nations. He also noted that the basic problem of vaccine inequity was a lack of sharing by the wealthy countries that have accumulated most of the vaccine supplies.
Ontario is doing very well with vaccination rollout, but we cannot bring our guard down. Epidemiologist David Fisman reports that Ontario has an R for the Delta variant firmly above 1 again, even as the R for earlier variants of concern falls away, and the expected decline in cases has ceased. In short, the Delta variant continues to spread and we urge the premier not to advance the reopening to Step 2 before the originally scheduled date.
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on the whole community – including nurses and other health professionals – in Ontario, Canada and internationally. We thank RNs, RPN/LPNs, and NPs – RNAO members and non-members – who have already responded to this international survey. If you have not yet done so, please consider the impact it will have. The aim of this survey is to find out how nurses are feeling about their work, and how they have been impacted by COVID-19, across a comparison of 150 countries. It will allow RNAO and the international community to learn what we have in common, and what is different, in terms of nurses’ wellbeing and the crisis in nursing human resources.
RNAO is keenly aware of the importance of schools for the mental, social and physical health of children, as well as for their academic development. The pandemic has been very hard for everyone and in particular for young students and their parents. However, the risk of reopening schools for the remaining three weeks of the academic year is too high. Thus, RNAO fully supports Premier Doug Ford's June 2 decision to delay the reopening of schools for in-person classes until September.
RNAO is glad that the government is heeding the call to accelerate the rollout of second doses. The government should engage, starting next week, in two parallel tracks for vaccinations. One is the continuation of the first dose for those 12 years and older – with priority given to hotspot zones. The second, full vaccination (second dose) should start for all persons 60+ – and not only 80+ as announced by the government. Ontario, starting next week, will have enough vaccines to move faster on both fronts. It is a matter of logistics and vaccinators, and with thousands of nurses in primary care and home care - plus 4,500 RN care coordinators available -- we can and must move faster.
Based on current trends in key health indicators, including the provincial vaccination rate, the government expects to enter Step One of the Roadmap the week of June 14, 2021. The province will confirm closer to the expected start of Step One, but RNAO cautions against any advancement of this date. We have already learnt the heavy people’s and societal costs of opening too soon.
RNAO says the pandemic has widened the divide between people who are able to work from home and those who have no choice. Many workers take risks on a daily basis travelling to their jobs. Many work without sick time benefits – including part-time, casual and agency nurses. In this rich province and country, there remain vulnerable workers who earn minimum wage and work in precarious employment. They face deplorable conditions.
The World Health Organization has proclaimed 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers to express gratitude for their unwavering dedication in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure all health workers are supported, protected, motivated and equipped to deliver safe health care at all times.
The Ontario government owes an apology to the families of the 3,758 long-term care (LTC) residents lost to COVID-19 and to the staff that valiantly cared for them under deplorable conditions – including 11 who lost their own lives in the line of duty.