Staff morale is low – stress high at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following months of gruelling long hours, critical staff shortages and an environment where there is no pay for staff who have to isolate or quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19, Barb DeRoche the President of CUPE 1974 said her nearly 2000 members are exhausted and demoralized by how they are being treated.

“The promised supplementary payment to personal support workers (PSWs) has yet to materialize. The constant thought of risk because of inadequate access to appropriate protective equipment and increasingly low staffing levels as the hospital capacity is stretched, are contributing to the feeling among the hospital workforce that they are largely unsupported. Morale is very low,” said DeRoche.

The number of health care workers in Ontario who have contracted COVID-19 was almost 8,000 at the beginning of November 2021. Based on government data that number has nearly doubled to more than 15,000 today.

“As many health care workers have become ill from COVID-19 in the last 3 months as became ill in the previous 10,” said Michael Hurley President of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

Hospital staff work in a high-risk environment “which is like a high wire: they are not often provided with the essential protective equipment that they need to keep safe,” added Hurley. “If they come into contact with or contract COVID-19 they won’t be paid to isolate or quarantine. In half of cases their WSIB claim will be challenged. It is no wonder that they feel abandoned by the Ford government, as 91 per cent of our members indicated to us in polling.”

CUPE and OCHU are calling on the Ford government to provide the necessary personal protective equipment and pay for exposure or illness due to COVID-19.

“This is the minimum the government can do to show that they’ve got hospital workers’ back,” says DeRoche.