OHS Canada Magazine

Emergency summit grapples with health system debilitated by COVID-19


By Laura Osman

OTTAWA — More than 30 national and provincial health organizations are trying to decide which of the devastating effects COVID-19 has taken on Canadian health care to tackle first, as they work to steer the country out of crisis.

The Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Nurses Association held an emergency summit Tuesday night to discuss how to move forward since the pandemic brought the health system to a breaking point, with no end in sight.

The organizations are particularly concerned about growing surgical backlogs and the effect that will have on patients’ quality of life for the years to come.

The well-being of health workers is also top of mind, as they report feeling exhausted, demoralized and short-staffed for 18 months straight.

CMA President Dr. Katharine Smart is expected to brief reporters about the meeting Wednesday morning.

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The 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, said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses.

The CFN wants to see the summit continue to focus their advocacy on the health workers shortage, which has been exacerbated by exhausted nurses and other workers leaving the industry entirely.

Silas said nurses are feeling overstretched and overwhelmed and it’s affecting the level of care they can give their patients.

“The guilt is weighing on their shoulders so much and they feel heavy all the time because of not being able to do their job appropriately,” she said.

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


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