During National Nursing Week, we celebrate the incredible work and dedication of nursing team members across Canada, including the tens of thousands of nurses represented by CUPE. We also take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge all front-line health care workers.

Canada’s health care system depends on the commitment and work of registered practical nurses (RPNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) working in hospitals, long-term care institutions, community organizations, and in patients’ homes.

The commitment of nurses needs to be celebrated every week of every year. But it is especially important at this moment, as we find ourselves in the centre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses and other health-care workers are showing extraordinary commitment and professionalism in the midst of this crisis. But sadly, health care workers are exhausted, and they fear for their health and their family’s health. The lack of personal protective equipment has shown an unacceptable gap in our system. There has also been a considerable strain on the mental health of too many staff. Health and safety must be now and forever a top priority. We need to care for those who care for us.

In the context of this pandemic, we have seen a greater public appreciation of the work done by nurses and all health care workers. Rightfully, they are recognized as heroes. In the face of our country’s worst health care crisis in modern times, we salute their courage and dedication.

The challenges facing front-line workers in health care are more pronounced than ever, as the COVID-19 crisis highlights problems that were already crippling our care system in Canada: under-funding, privatization, insufficient staffing, and many others.

We must fix this broken system. We must ensure the health and safety of staff by guaranteeing sufficient personal protective equipment, and better working conditions, staffing, and workloads. We must ensure minimum standards and hours of care in long-term care facilities. We must also recognize the full scope of practise, and make sure all members of the health care team are recognized. As always, CUPE will continue to fight for increased funding for health care, and against privatization and contracting-out.