During the SARS outbreak in Canada 5 years ago, three healthcare workers died of the disease. Two were nurses.
Nelia Laroza, age 52 - and Tecla Lin, age 58.
Their deaths were caused, in part, by a system that failed to protect its workers adequately. This from the SARS commission interim report SARS and Public Health in Ontario.
SARS showed that Ontario’s public health system is broken and needs to be fixed. Despite the extraordinary efforts of many dedicated individuals and the strength of many local public health units2, the overall system proved woefully inadequate.
SARS showed Ontario’s central public health system to be unprepared, fragmented, poorly led, uncoordinated, inadequately resourced, professionally impoverished, and generally incapable of discharging its mandate.
The SARS crisis exposed deep fault lines in the structure and capacity of Ontario’s public health system. Having regard to these problems, Ontario was fortunate that SARS was ultimately contained without widespread community transmission or further hospital spread, sickness and death.
SARS was contained only by the heroic efforts of dedicated front line health care and public health workers and the assistance of extraordinary managers and medical advisors. They did so with little assistance from the central provincial public health system that should have been there to help them.
These problems need urgently to be fixed.
Lest we focus just on Canada, the same assessment undoubtedly holds true in other nations as well. Canada was just unlucky enough to be tested in the fiery forge of SARS.
Five years later a report indicates that there are still serious gaps in the protection of nurses in Canada.
This from the Toronto Sun.
By KEVIN CONNOR
Nurses face significant gaps when it comes to support during health emergencies such as a flu pandemic, says a new study.
"The weaknesses and gaps in human resource support identified in our research jeopardize the capacity of Canada's health-care system to prepare, respond and recover from infectious disease outbreaks and other crises," says lead researcher Dr. Carol Amaratunga of the University of Ottawa, whose Women's Health Research Unit carried out the study.
"Strengthening resources and support would also enhance public health and safety."
The study, Caring for Nurses in Public Health Emergencies, calls for greater support for emergency preparedness and response, as well as workplace improvements to better protect nurses in crises.
Recommendations include the need for increased access to training and drills, personal protective equipment, improved compensation and benefits for part-time casual employees.
The report notes that there have been improvements made since the SARS outbreak in 2003.
"Improvements have been made in emergency preparedness with investments in stockpiles of antiviral medications, personal protective equipment, establishment of mobile hospital emergency response teams and the development of organizational disaster plans," the report says.
"(But) more attention needs to be given to preparing and supporting nurses and other health-care professionals," says Dr. Ron Saunders, vice-president of research for the Canadian Policy Research Networks.
"If Canada is to respond effectively to the next public health emergency, we need to act now to develop and implement better programs and policies that address the needs of nurses."