OTTAWA – The president of the Canadian Medical Association says provinces like Alberta are “gaslighting” health care workers over the toll the COVID-19 crisis is taking on the health care system.

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Dr Catherine Smart says there is a sense of despair among health care workers in the country that their governments are not listening to them as they try to manage the pandemic and feel there is no end now.

“What in the world is happening when our governments are unwilling to listen to the people who work?” he told a news conference on Wednesday.

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She said that when politicians in hard-hit jurisdictions talk about building more hospital capacity to deal with the steep COVID-19 caseload, health care workers feel the public is not getting the full picture because trained doctors and There is a shortage of nurses. To take proper care of the patients in these extra beds. He said employees were being denied time off and forced to work mandatory overtime to make up the shortfall.

She also said that health care workers felt “a lot of gaslighting is happening in Alberta” when officials talk about intensive care capacity. The word “gaslight,” which comes from the 1940s psychological thriller of the same name, refers to manipulating someone else to the point where they doubt their own sense of reality.

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Canada is currently in the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is partly driven by a more transmissible version and has not yet achieved herd immunity through vaccination.

Eighty percent of Canadians eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, while 88 percent of those eligible had received at least one dose.

Top provincial and federal health officials say those who are not fully immunized, the vast majority of patients requiring intensive care and contracting COVID-19, require hospital admission.

The doctors’ organization joined with the Canadian Nurses Association on Tuesday to hold an emergency summit with health care workers to discuss how to proceed, as COVID-19 cases climb in parts of the country. push systems to the brink.

Together, they called on governments to address staff shortages across Canada through improved retention and recruitment efforts, as well as to provide “immediate relief” to those working in COVID-19 hot areas.

The organizations also want governments to commit to preventing health systems from collapsing by bringing in the public health measures needed to prevent further spread of the virus, and empower school boards to do so.

“People are really tired of health care, which is passed between levels of government – ​​the federal government is blaming the provinces, the provinces are blaming the federal government and no one is really taking action. , owning the problems, explaining what it is and showing leadership to move forward,” Smart said.

Smart says the Liberal government can do more outreach to health workers as well as provide provinces with a framework when it comes to responding to COVID-19 like it did for medical aid in dying Was.

He also highlighted the need for a “functional national vaccine passport or certificate”.

The federal government announced in August that it would develop such a document for international travel. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that Ottawa is working with provinces to standardize proof of vaccination that people will use to reach non-essential businesses and entertainment venues.

Canadian Nurses Association president Tim Guest said Tuesday that the health care sector faces a “huge data gap” in knowing what resources are available to them, and what the workforce looks like across the country. He said the federal government, which transfers health funds to the provinces, should address this.

Organizations are particularly concerned about the growing surgical backlog and the impact it will have on patients’ quality of life in the coming years.

According to data from Health Canada, the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan boast the highest rates of active cases of COVID-19.

Premier Jason Kenney admitted Alberta’s United Conservative Party government got it wrong when it lifted nearly all health restrictions over the summer. Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has not said as much, despite making a similar decision.

“The real things we heard and a theme last night was, health care workers want our leaders to be honest. They want them to accept what they’re hearing from front-line workers,” Smart said.

Organizations say the well-being of health workers is also top of mind, as they experience exhaustion, morale and staff crunch for more than 18 months straight.

Canadian Federation of Nurses President Linda Silas said CMA and other organizations are already working together to lobby the government to create a national health workforce agency to better plan for the future of health human resources.

His organization wanted to see that Summit continue to focus its advocacy on the shortage of health workers, which has been exacerbated entirely by nurses and other workers leaving the industry.

Silas said nurses are feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed and this is affecting the level of care they can provide to their patients.

“The crime is very heavy on their shoulders and they feel heavy all the time because of not being able to do their job properly,” he said.

She said the summit was concerned not only with hospital issues such as surgical backlogs and overcrowded ICU beds, but also the impact the pandemic has had on long-term care and home care.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 6, 2021.