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B.C. nurses raise concerns over ‘insufficient and slow’ government response to coronavirus

Front line B.C. health workers appeal for help
More and more nurses are appealing to the public for help in the fight against COVID-19. BC Nurses' Union President Christine Sorenson shares her response to those social media messages.

More than 100 nurses across B.C. have sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan asking for more help on the front lines to fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The open letter, dated Monday, says nurses are joining doctors at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster in their criticism of the provincial and federal government for their “insufficient and slow response” to the pandemic.

“The measures taken so far have been welcome, but they are not sufficient. In the last week alone between Monday and Friday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in British Columbia tripled,” the letter reads.

“On Monday, March 16, there were 103 cases. By Friday, that had risen to 348. This means that if they continue to grow at the same rate, there could be 9,000 in B.C. by April 1, 28,000 by April 8, (and) 84,000 by April 15.”

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Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. health care workers appreciate support, but have a serious message
Coronavirus outbreak: B.C. health care workers appreciate support, but have a serious message

The letter also asks for free hotel accommodation for doctors, respiratory therapists, nurses, paramedics, and other hospital staff so they can isolate themselves from family members, as well as for a guaranteed adequate supply of N95 masks, gowns and gloves.

“There is no reason whatsoever to think we cannot become another Italy. If nothing changes radically, we are certain to. The only step that can prevent this is massive social distancing on a scale qualitatively beyond what has been done so far, because what has been done so far is simply not working,” the letter reads.

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“We insist – we demand – that you act to implement mandatory social isolation.”

READ MORE: B.C. doctors call for stricter coronavirus measures, say province on track with Italy

The province is expected to release modelling numbers this week showing projections on the spread of COVID-19. The government believes the measures now in place, if followed, will reduce the speed at which cases are multiplying so that B.C. avoids a situation such as Italy’s.

The nurses are calling for social-distancing measures to include a mandatory shutdown of every workplace except those deemed essential, such as grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies and health care facilities.

“We need to apply the same logic requiring the closure of schools to every similar institution,” states the letter.

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“For example, every construction camp needs to be closed, or we will continue to concentrate thousands of individuals in close quarters, with shared dining halls, bathrooms and bunk facilities, only to have them periodically fly out on leave and disperse across the province every few weeks.”

Doctors of BC Coronavirus letter response
Doctors of BC Coronavirus letter response

The nurses also want BC Housing to help homeless people practice social-distancing by temporarily housing them in unoccupied housing units, hotels and motels, rather than “jamming them into shelters.”

The B.C. government has unveiled a $5-billion relief plan to help individuals and businesses survive the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. The federal government has passed its own $82-billion support package.