Nfld. & Labrador

Team of N.L. 'health-care heroes' heading to Ontario on Tuesday

Newfoundland Premier Andrew Furey says he spoke with Ontario Premier Doug Ford over the weekend about sending health-care workers and supplies to help the province deal with a worsening COVID-19 situation.

Nine health-care professionals to arrive Tuesday, Christine Elliott confirms

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, left, has spoken with Ontario Premier Doug Ford and says promised help for Ontario should arrive in the province on Tuesday. (CBC)

Health-care workers from Newfoundland and Labrador are leaving for Ontario on Tuesday morning to help relieve a system buckling under the weight of a brutal third wave of COVID-19. 

In a social media post Sunday night, Premier Andrew Furey said he spoke with Ontario Premier Doug Ford over the weekend and expects a contingent of nurses and others to be on their way soon.

On Monday afternoon, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed that nine health-care professionals from N.L. would arrive in Ontario on Tuesday, and that Furey's wife, Dr. Allison Furey, would be one of them.

Ontario reported 3,510 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 877 patients now being treated in intensive-care units, about double the numbers at the beginning of April. 

The pandemic has pushed workers in Ontario to the brink of exhaustion, and Furey was one of the first premiers to offer nurses and extra equipment to help.

LISTEN | N.L. Premier Andrew Furey describes need for help in Ontario:

Furey told reporters Monday afternoon there will be "two streams" of support workers involved.

The first nine people — including three doctors, five nurses and a nurse practitioner — will leave Tuesday morning with at least one person staying until the end of May. The remainder are staying from anywhere between 10 days and three weeks.

They will be deployed in downtown Toronto at the University Health Network, and are expected to begin working on Wednesday, according to a statement from a spokesperson for Elliott.

"Hospitals like UHN will be selected to receive volunteers based on the need to build capacity to care for our most acute patients, focusing on our COVID-19 hot spots," the statement reads.

"They are expected to help these hospitals to manage the recent surge in ICU cases, and alleviate pressure on existing staff."

Tuesday's trip is a trial run, the premier said, which will work out the kinks for sending additional support. The project is fully funded by the federal government, and about 20 to 40 people have volunteered, Furey said.

"We're Canadian and this is a Canadian problem. COVID knows no boundaries, and were we in a scenario like this, I would hope the rest of the country would come to our assistance as well," he said. 

In a statement to CBC News, Ford thanked Newfoundland and Labrador for providing help at a critical time. 

"I want to thank Premier Furey and the people of Newfoundland for stepping up to help Ontario in our ongoing battle against this third wave of COVID-19 variants. Our province is enormously grateful for this support and the health-care heroes who are making it happen," Ford said. 

Furey says nine health-care professionals are leaving Newfoundland and Labrador on Tuesday morning to aid in Ontario's pandemic response. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada)

Newfoundland and Labrador has had two shutdowns since the COVID-19 pandemic swamped Canada in March 2020, although both were contained more quickly than in other provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador's public health measures have included tough restrictions on travel from other provinces. 

There are 28 active cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Furey said if the COVID-19 situation worsens in N.L., the dispatched health-care workers will return to the province within 24 hours. 

Health-care workers will follow the province's rotational worker guidelines upon returning, including mandatory self-isolation for two weeks with COVID-19 testing throughout. 

The move comes as Newfoundland and Labrador's Registered Nurses' Union continues to push government to resolve persistent staffing shortages in parts of he province, something Furey says his government will address. 

"This is an acute crisis in Ontario right now," Furey said in an interview with CBC Radio's The House.

"We've been assured by the regional health authorities that any staffing models that we provide to Ontario to help our brothers and sisters in Ontario won't affect, won't have an impact here on delivery of services in our own health authorities."

The nurses' union has said 30 nurses could be chosen from a pool of volunteers in three of the province's four regional health authorities.

The union says none of the workers will come from Labrador-Grenfell Health's coverage area, where staffing levels are at an all-time low.

Andrew Furey, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, joins The House to discuss pandemic assistance for Canada’s most populous province and offers his reaction to the federal budget.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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