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President's Message

IT TAKES A TEAM

Christine Sorensen

When we act together in solidarity, there’s almost nothing we can’t achieve. It’s a fact that’s never been more evident than it is today. This is a time to reflect on the importance of solidarity, and the power of collective action for the good of all.

Nurses are workers with hard-fought workplace rights that we’ve won through coordinated effort and mutual advocacy. WorkSafeBC’s August announcement of presumptive coverage for nurses who contract COVID-19 at work is the most recent win, and a demonstration of the power of unions.

The announcement followed the passing of Bill 23, which includes amendments to the Workers Compensation Act that now make it easier for workers to receive compensation if injured from exposure to COVID-19.

The changes show what empowered nurses can achieve. They happened as a result of BCNU’s strong member advocacy at the WorkSafeBC Board and getting the public behind our Support BC's Nurses campaign in early June, which encouraged British Columbians to email their MLA to demand that all nurses who are exposed or test positive for COVID-19 are compensated immediately.

BCNU’s commitment to our members’ occupational health and safety is unwavering. We will continue to advocate for safe working conditions and educate all members about their workplace rights in the face of the ongoing challenges the pandemic brings.

Member surveys conducted over the last few months have exposed the extent to which the ongoing lack of unfettered access to personal protective equipment (PPE) has impacted nurses. The statistics collected from our internal “COVID-19 in the Workplace” survey – which gathered experiences from over 3,000 nurses – were troubling. Approximately 54 percent of members working in acute, long-term care and the community reported shortages of PPE at their worksites, and the majority of those surveyed – 77 percent – said they believe current PPE restrictions are based on supply rather than science.

And for the first time ever, a recent study conducted by BCNU and University of British Columbia researchers looked at how COVID-19 has impacted the mental health of BC’s nurses. The results show firsthand the psychological strain that so many of you are under as you work through this public health crisis while juggling professional responsibilities and making personal sacrifices.

I truly appreciate the time members have taken to participate in these surveys. Public health and physical distancing measures that restrict worksite visits mean they are more important than ever as a tool that allows you to provide your feedback. From PPE to mental health, research surveys provide us with the critical information required to advocate for all nurses and bring your voice to policy makers, health employers and government.

Connecting with members will also be a priority this fall, and we are looking at innovative ways to reach out to you during the pandemic while ensuring the safety of all workers including our stewards, executives and staff. Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we continue to work closely with all of the province's health authorities to reach an agreement on a collaborative process that will help implement some of the most important new staffing provisions in the Nurses' Bargaining Association collective agreement.

And this fall we will be providing you with updated information about your pension and benefits, both of which remain secure and unchanged.

Much uncertainty will remain in the months ahead as we brace for a “second wave.” Meanwhile, kids are returning to school and teachers and families are doing their best to navigate the many unknowns that come from teaching and learning in a pandemic.

Nurses and health-care workers continue to take on unprecedented challenges related to seasonal influenza and the ongoing opioid crisis – the other public health crisis our province is experiencing that is still not getting the attention and action needed to end preventable deaths.

The toxicity of the drug supply is extreme. The BC Coroners Service received reports of 175 drug toxicity deaths in July, the third consecutive month where the number of deaths surpassed 170. And non-fatal overdose incidents are also increasing. This is terrible news for the families of those impacted. Unfortunately, as more people isolate at home and use substances to cope with the stress of COVID, we can only expect these deaths continue. We must do more to address this health crisis and end the widespread stigma of people who possess or use controlled substances.

Finally, as nurses we must continue to do more for ourselves so that our patients can get the care they need. I ask all of you to do your best to take care of yourselves and prioritize your psychological health and safety as we face the challenges ahead. Solidarity and unity have never been more important. Let’s come together now to work for the collective betterment of our 48,000 members, and to secure the healthy and safe workplaces we all deserve.

Christine Sorensen
President, BC Nurses' Union

Updated: 9/10/2020 2:23 PM

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