President's Commentary: More reasons than ever to support public health care

We are always grateful for our strong public system of health care, but never more so than during a time of uncertainty. We are confident in the knowledge that we have highly trained, experienced public sector workers on the frontline helping to protect our communities during this stressful period

By Larry Brown, NUPGE President

It’s not surprising that the news about the coronavirus, COVID-19, has taken over our daily news. We’re seeing how an infection in one area of the world has now spread to people in at least 100 countries. Governments are setting up precautionary measures for the public to follow and procedures to treat and contain those who are infected. Italy has imposed a quarantine across its country.

In Canada, at the time of writing this, cases of infection have been found in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. There has been one death due to the virus — an elderly man in a B.C. nursing home.

The federal and provincial governments are working to coordinate efforts to test and treat people who have been infected, as well as to take proactive measures to reduce the spread of the virus. A major priority is the protection of those vulnerable to this illness – especially the elderly and ill.

We are always grateful for our strong public system of health care, but never more so than during a time of uncertainty. We are confident in the knowledge that we have highly trained, experienced public sector workers on the frontline helping to protect our communities during this stressful period. Many of us can remember the SARS outbreak in 2003. Health care workers kept the system functioning at its best despite the risks many of them faced. We are seeing the same thing right now.

There are countless workers we connect with through our health care system – lab workers, technologists, nurses, facility operators, public health workers, community service workers, nursing and retirement home workers —  all of them have critical roles to play during a medical emergency. Like firefighters who run toward the burning building, our health care workers head toward illness every day. There should be no end to the amount of thanks we give to them. And we have a responsibility to make their work easier, not harder.

That’s why supporting a strong system of care is so crucial for all of us. It needs to be there to support each of us in sickness, and in health. It needs to be well-funded, accessible and affordable so we know we have our system that has the resources to ensure our safety, especially in uncertain times. Knowing our health care workers have the expertise to provide the best quality care, gives us the confidence that we, and our loved ones, will be all right.

Of course, we’ve seen how some governments have been trying to dismantle our public health care system through privatization. We know the corners that are cut when the focus is on making a profit. We know how a system gets stressed when the workforce has been cut back.

That’s why we must all remember how valuable our health care system is to keeping our country and our visitors safe and healthy. While we may live within the borders of our towns and cities, our provinces and territories, and our country, we certainly are connected to the world outside of them. It’s important for all of us to feel confident that no one’s health is being put at risk.

We are all connected.

So, it’s at times like these when we see how the rise of income inequality and society’s neglect of our poor, our unemployed, those struggling with mental health issues, and our elderly have made them even more vulnerable to the effects of any kind of outbreak, like COVID-19. The lack of clean and safe affordable housing, the high costs of prescription drugs, cuts to community services and supports, the lack of savings for retirement, and the lack of well-paying jobs have been assaults to the health of our communities. Their insecurity makes us all weaker.

And while Canadians have a history of coming to the aid of others in times of difficulty, we need to remember this once the emergency has passed. Keeping each other’s best interests at heart, including that of our most vulnerable, is the only way we can remain strong and resilient. It isn’t just about one infection. It can’t just be in times of struggle. Caring for each other needs to be an everyday event.

Issues and Campaigns
Occupational Groups

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE