As Canada sees the end of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic we want to acknowledge the role of frontline personnel working in healthcare and essential services for the protection and support they provide the community. We need to recognize the emotional struggle and physical risks related to working on the front line and caring for our covid patients, and advocate for ways in which our communities can support essential workers including vaccine prioritization and paid sick leave.
Frontline health workers are the backbone of our health systems and they play a critical role in providing a local context for proven health solutions. Frontline health workers directly provide services where they are most needed, especially in remote and rural areas. We applaud the continued work of our Frontline health professionals. They have carried us through this pandemic and are helping us out of it. One under-appreciated element of COVID 19 is the physical issues created. Long hours limit sleep and nutrition, which can lead to exhaustion. Our frontline healthcare workers put themselves at physical and emotional risk helping patients and families overcome COVID-19. Close contact with patients increases the risks of developing symptoms themselves and infecting their loved ones. For their friends and family, we thank you for your sacrifices and for being their support network at this critical time. Hopefully, you will all find some respite soon.
“There were days when it was absolutely terrifying going into work.” Frontline workers in industries such as transportation, food services, education, factories and construction had little ability to protect themselves, as mask mandates were weakly enforced and, at least initially, and physical protection was limited. Many essential service workers, who never missed a day due to the pandemic, haven’t received any kind of pay bonus and worse, have not been a made priority to be vaccinated. Stress and exhaustion are a part of the life of essential service workers, this is amplified when customers refuse to conform to public health protocols. With little support, we have now seen smaller stores resort to hiring security guards in order to provide their services in a safe manner. All this has led to an increased risk of acquiring trauma and stress-related issues such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety; these issues are exacerbated for women.
Vaccination and Paid Sick Leave
Workers, employers and unions in essential services including transport, manufacturing, construction and grocery are all concerned about future vaccination plans. While being labelled essential service providers, few have received vaccinations and are not included on the priority list. We at the Calgary Black Chambers recognized the need for respite for all our frontline workers. Another key support required by essential workers, particularly the most vulnerable and marginalized, is paid sick leave. Guaranteed paid sick leave would enable frontline workers to take care of themselves and their families when sick, and would enable them to isolate when symptomatic which would help eliminate the continued the spread of the virus, particularly in crowded workplaces and home environments.
On the eve of opening, it’s important we do not forget safety measures. While the vaccines have been shown to be effective against all forms of the virus, large exposure can still lead to negative outcomes as evidenced by the recent outbreak at Foothills Hospital. Please join us in asking the provincial governments of Canada to prioritize frontline workers to provide guaranteed sick leave. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, however, now more than ever, we must now recognize and protect the people who are helping us out of this pandemic.