London

Psychiatric residents threaten LHSC walkout over COVID-19 workplace concerns

Hospital brass will meet with psychiatric residents about concerns over COVID-19 exposures at the London Health Sciences Centre, and what the doctors say is a "crisis" in mental health care that has only been made worse by the pandemic. 

10 medical staffers are in self-quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 at the hospital

The London Health Sciences Centre's Victoria Hospital and Children's Hospital in London, Ont. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Hospital brass will meet with psychiatric residents over concerns about COVID-19 exposures at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), and what the doctors say is a "crisis" in mental health care that has only been made worse by the pandemic. 

In a letter sent to LHSC leadership, the resident physicians working at the Centralized Emergency Psychiatric Services (CEPS) say they'll stop working on Tuesday to protest their working conditions, including a recent COVID-19 exposure in a workroom which has forced four residents, two nurses, two medical students, and two staff physicians to self-quarantine.

"Resident attempts to advocate have been met with institutional suppression, the formation of committee after committee, feedback survey after survey, where changes could have been made at any time. The current CEPS situation needs fundamental restructuring. It cannot continue to run on resident goodwill," the group wrote.

"We cannot continue to model the normalization of disaster psychiatry in the ER to junior learners seven months into a global pandemic. We cannot normalize the reckless disregard for patient care standards and frontline healthcare workers' lives in a leadership vacuum."

Residents are doctors who have finished medical school but are training in a particular specialty. 

A spokesperson for the London Health Sciences says the hospital is aware of the job action and will meet with the group to discuss the concerns. 

"We can confirm that there was a COVID-19 exposure, and that those affected have been notified through our contact tracing process. There is no further risk to staff and physicians, or patients," the hospital said in a statement. 

The exposure happened on Oct. 11. 

The workroom where the COVID-19 exposure happened "is an occupational hazard" where it is "impossible to social distance even assuming perfect compliance with individual masking for our 16 -24 hour shifts," the residents wrote.

It's only luck that no one has been exposed to the coronavirus until now, the residents say.

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