Nurses, firefighters say childcare access critical to keep them on the front lines of COVID-19 crisis
B.C. Nurses' Union president says overnight care for kids is essential so staff can work extended shifts
Taking care of COVID-19 patients while worrying about who will take care of your own family is the reality for many British Columbians on the front lines of the current health crisis.
As of Thursday morning, 231 cases of the disease had been confirmed in B.C., with seven deaths, and it's all hands on deck at health-care facilities.
With K-12 schools shut indefinitely and parents scrambling to find childcare, the leaders of the provincial nurses union and firefighters association say front-line workers need a solution.
"Having access to childcare will be critical for all essential workers as we move through this," said Christine Sorenson, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union on The Early Edition on Thursday.
She said it is particularly challenging for her union's members to find care because neighbours and elderly relatives are fearful of watching nurses' children and being exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Sorenson says many health-care workers are working extended hours during this unprecedented time and need overnight care for their children.
Many members are anxious and stressed because they are torn between helping the public and helping their own families, while some are also dealing with the turmoil of caring for patients who have since died, she added.
"This is the time to offer them support in any way that you can," said Sorenson, reminding people who know a health-care worker to reach out and check in.
BCNU is grateful for the thousands of dedicated nurses & health care workers on the front line, providing incredible care while putting patients first <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19</a> <br>FAQ & resources for members are available on the BCNU website: <a href="https://t.co/uqQpwUdDgi">https://t.co/uqQpwUdDgi</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCNursesUnion?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCNursesUnion</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/YearoftheNurse?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#YearoftheNurse</a>—@BCNursesUnion
Torn between work and home
Gord Ditchburn, president of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association, echoed Sorenson's concerns.
"Its a toll on people, they have loved ones at home that need care as well," said Ditchburn, also on The Early Edition Thursday.
He said the association is working hard to provide mental health support for firefighters during the crisis, but concerns about childcare are also weighing heavily on staff.
"They need to have that mental health capacity knowing that their families are looked after while they are out serving the public," said Ditchburn.
Firefighters are also coping with the stress of working on the front lines as they respond to emergency calls during the coronavirus outbreak.
Six firefighters from Langley, B.C., are currently in social isolation after being potentially exposed to the virus during a medical call on March 9.
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With files from The Early Edition