BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at email@example.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is from Alex Nuttall, former Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MP and former Barrie city councillor.
When this pandemic started in Ontario a year ago, we were all stunned by the sudden and rapid transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
None of us — including the government, it seems — knew much about what was going on or the potential risks to our personal health. Questions arose like, should we be wearing masks in public? Was it still safe to gather with friends or family?
For many of us, the solution was simply to stay at home as much as possible and to limit the number of people we encountered on a daily basis. For personal support workers (PSWs) in Ontario and the rest of Canada, these were not options.
PSWs have been on the front lines of this pandemic since Day 1. While we can debate about who is to blame for the state of affairs in our long-term care facilities — and the abhorrent lack of regulations surrounding an industry tasked with caring for some of society’s most vulnerable — one thing that cannot be debated is the courage and fortitude of the PSWs on the front line and the tremendous leadership of the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association (OPSWA), led by Miranda Ferrier.
A PSW herself from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, Miranda started the association 11 years ago. It now represents tens of thousands of PSWs.
While many of us were hunkering down at home during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, Miranda was organizing SWAT teams of PSWs to deploy into COVID-positive long-term care homes with no government support or financial backing. These courageous individuals suited up and put themselves in harm’s way to try to protect our mothers, fathers and grandparents when we could not.
Recognizing that a lack of structure and regulation left a huge void to be filled, Miranda brought over 38,000 PSWs in Ontario together online for community support during the first wave of the pandemic.
Most recently, when one of our community’s long-term care facilities in Barrie became the latest hotspot for the new UK variant of COVID-19, Miranda and Ontario’s PSWs stepped up once again. They called on their membership to assist within 24 hours of the government asking for help to augment a workforce that had been devastated by positive COVID-19 tests. As a result, PSWs from all over Ontario volunteered to travel to Barrie to help our residents and our community.
I know this to be only one of hundreds, if not thousands, of examples throughout this pandemic. The bravery of OPSWA and our PSWs will be spoken of for years to come.
Still, it is important that we all recognize that this battle is not over and that we continue to say 'thank you' to OPSWA and all of the PSWs who continue to go to work for us every single day.