Health-care workers from Newfoundland and Labrador are leaving for Ontario on Tuesday morning to help relieve a system buckling under the weight of a brutal third wave of COVID-19.
In a social media post Sunday night, Premier Andrew Furey said he had spoken with Ontario Premier Doug Ford over the weekend, and expects a contingent of nurses and others to be on their way soon.
On Monday afternoon, Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that nine health-care professionals from N.L. would arrive in Ontario on Tuesday, and that Furey’s wife, Dr. Alison Furey, would be one of them.
Ontario reported 3,510 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 877 patients now being treated in intensive care units. That’s about double from numbers at the beginning of April.
The pandemic has pushed workers there to the brink of exhaustion, and Furey was one of the first premiers to offer nurses and extra equipment to help.
Details are coming together for the Newfoundland and Labrador contingent of health care professionals heading to Ontario to offer COVID-19 help. Talking to Premier <a href=”https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@fordnation</a> over the weekend, and expect to provide an update tomorrow – looks like they’ll be on their way Tuesday!
Furey told reporters on Monday afternoon there will be “two streams” of support workers involved.
The first nine people — including three doctors, five nurses and a nurse practitioner — will leave Tuesday morning with at least one person staying until the end of May. The remainder are staying from anywhere between 10 days and three weeks. They will be deployed in downtown Toronto.
Tuesday’s trip is a trial run, the premier said, which will work out the kinks for sending additional support. The project is fully funded by the federal government, and about 20 to 40 people have volunteered, Furey said.
“We’re Canadian and this is a Canadian problem. COVID knows no boundaries, and we were in a scenario like this, I would hope the rest of the country would come to our assistance as well,” he said.
In a statement to CBC News, Ford again thanked Newfoundland and Labrador for providing help at a critical time.
“I want to thank Premier Furey and the people of Newfoundland for stepping up to help Ontario in our ongoing battle against this third wave of COVID-19 variants. Our province is enormously grateful for this support and the health-care heroes who are making it happen,” Ford said.
Newfoundland and Labrador has had two shutdowns since the COVID-19 pandemic swamped Canada in March 2020, although both were contained more quickly than in other provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador’s public health measures have included tough restrictions on travel from other provinces.
As of Monday, there are 28 active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Furey said if the COVID-19 situation worsens in N.L., the dispatched health-care workers will return to the province within 24 hours.
Health-care workers will follow the province’s rotational worker guidelines upon returning, which includes mandatory self-isolation for two weeks with COVID-19 testing throughout.
Meanwhile, the move comes as Newfoundland and Labrador’s Registered Nurses’ Union continues to push government to address persistent staffing shortages in parts of he province, something Furey says his government will address.
“This is an acute crisis in Ontario right now,” Furey said in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House.
“We’ve been assured by the regional health authorities that any staffing models that we provide to Ontario to help our brothers and sisters in Ontario won’t affect, won’t have an impact here on delivery of services in our own health authorities.”
The nurses’ union has said potentially 30 nurses could be chosen from a pool of volunteers in three of the province’s four regional health authorities.
The union says none of the workers will come from Labrador-Grenfell Health’s coverage area, where staffing levels are at an all-time low.
CBC News: The House7:14N.L. extends a hand to Ontario
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador