The following letter to the editor by Jim Laverie was published in the Chronicle Herald on July 13, 2020.
I work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) for the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA).
I have worked each and every shift during the pandemic.
Many of us were happy to hear we would be recognized for hard work and putting our lives at risk when reading the provincial government’s May 7 press release.
Here’s that commitment in that May release:
“Frontline health-care providers are working flat out to keep Nova Scotians safe and healthy during this unprecedented time, sometimes putting their own lives at risk,” said Premier McNeil. “We are pleased to partner with the federal government on a program that recognizes the hard work and unique challenges frontline health-care workers face due to COVID-19.”
When the crisis hit back in March, all NSHA workers who reported to work had to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distance, while still having contact with clients, public and co-workers who potentially could infect us.
It was trying times and while it would have been safer to “stay the blazes home,” we reported to work, we touched door knobs and elevator buttons to get to our workplace. We may have stopped for gas or at the grocery store. At work, we donned masks for our shifts, sanitized our hands and social-distanced the best we could. We continued to have unavoidable close contact with clients, public and co-workers that could have exposed us, and potentially our loved ones, at any time to COVID-19.
When we left work, we then had to worry about going home and exposing our families to the virus. We would change our work clothes outside if possible, shower and then disinfect anything we touched. We went out of our way to avoid contact with our families, not sharing the same bathroom, not touching, sleeping in separate beds. Some actually stayed at cottages, trailers or bunked up with other health-care workers, etc. It was a frightening time for all.
All of this caused great anxiety to all of us and our families, no matter what job they do or where they work.
To read that not all NSHA employees would receive COVID-19 pay is very upsetting when all have gone through what I have described above. I still suffer anxiety from this. I wonder if it would have been better to stay home and stay safe.
I urge the premier to do the right thing and provide COVID pay to all those at NSHA who provided services in any capacity to the Nova Scotia public during the pandemic.
In health care, all employees are equally valuable team members and should be treated as such.
Jim Laverie is Area 2 vice president (Yarmouth-Digby-Roseway), CUPE Local 8920. He lives in Forest Glen.