Dozens of health care workers have reached out to my office since the original letter, pleading for assistance. Nurses working in hospitals and long-term care homes are reporting that when their employers or health and safety officials direct them to isolate due to COVID exposure, they are not allowed to take sick days or get paid. One nurse was exposed to COVID by a person in their bubble. OCC Health mandated them to stay home until they received a negative test, but said they could not take sick time or be paid. They were told they could apply for federal support, but that program provided less than a 1/3 of their wage. LTC nurses report a chaotic work environment, and if they are exposed to COVID-19, they are sent home, unpaid. Another ER nurse has been forced to self-isolate due to exposure or symptoms more than 6 times, each time unpaid, and is now told by their employer that their absences are "becoming a problem".
Minister, these are just a handful of stories, and they are not even the most egregious. Health care workers report inconsistency and confusion with who is sent home and why. I cannot fathom this government's unimaginable cruelty, sending home front-line nurses without pay just days before Christmas, because they are exposed to COVID. The situations amounts to a public health nightmare, where employees report having to choose between feeding their families and reporting exposure or symptoms. I am particularly disturbed that health care workers in long-term care, where the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths are attributed to, are forced into a position where if they are exposed or report exposure, they will be unable to pay their bills.
Front-line health care workers are at their breaking point, and for some inexplicable reason, this government is creating repercussions for these heroes when they are exposed to COVID-19. It is past time to do the right thing. You and your Ministry could resolve this issue quickly. Nurses deserve to be treated with dignity and respect rather than being stripped of their pay.
First Letter to Minister of Health Elliot