A View From the Front Lines

By Cliff Lafreniere

In recent weeks, the media has hailed the efforts of frontline workers who are fighting the Covid-19 pandemic – the doctors, the nurses, the first responders, the retail employees, among others.

What is like to work on the front lines of this health crisis?

I recently asked Natalia Kusendova that very question. Kusendova is the MPP for the riding of Mississauga Centre, and the youngest female member of Provincial Parliament.

Several weeks ago, she added the extra duties of her previous career and has taken up a role as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Etobicoke General Hospital, while continuing her duties as an MPP.

As Kusendova explains, returning to nursing at this time is no different than her reasoning for getting into politics: “I wanted to impact my community in a positive way,” she says.

Working in an emergency room during this health crisis does not strike fear into Kusendova’s heart. On the contrary, she is motivated and energized by the high level of professionalism and organization at her hospital, by the levels of cooperation among various levels of government, and by the support from individuals and businesses.

Hospitals like Etobicoke General have introduced safety measures and protocols to ensure that doctors, nurses, staff members and patients are protected and safeguarded at all times. The stream of Covid-19 patients (as opposed to potential surges) has not overtaxed the system and led to panic situations.

Kusendova realizes that people might be fearful about going to a hospital during the Covid-19 crisis, and she wants to reassure the public that hospitals are safe environments. There is currently an adequate supply of intensive-care beds and ventilators to accommodate the healthcare needs of the public.

Kusendova believes that the province’s state of emergency (declared on March 16th) has been a significant factor in limiting the number of Covid-19 cases in the province. It bans people from gathering in public spaces and it outlaws events of gatherings of more than five people.

She reiterates that if you are having mild symptoms and suspect Covid-19, please call Telehealth first at 1-866-797-0000. If you are having moderate to severe symptoms like difficulty breathing or chest pain – please visit to an emergency room right away. People are urged not to visit an assessment centre unless they have been referred by a health care professional.

Kusendova is also encouraged by the actions of citizens to self-isolate at home and obey the guidelines from public health officials. “These preventative actions by Ontarians have helped to thwart a surge in Covid-19 cases,” she says. “We are apart, but we are all in this together.

She understands that people are anxious, stressed and fearful but that it’s important to keep going and not give up. She advises people at home to utilize online tools and platforms to communicate with friends and loved ones.

Indeed, many Ontarians may be experiencing mental health issues in dealing with the isolation and uncertainties of their personal circumstances, in which case Kusendova recommends contacting healthcare professionals for help (visit 211Ontario.ca).

Kusendova commends the province in providing emergency funding of up to $12 million to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports. and $2.6 million to hire new psychologists and other mental health workers to support Ontario Provincial Police personnel.

Kusendova is also encouraged by the level of support from businesses and individuals across the province. The provincial government recently launched the $50 million Ontario Together Fund, to facilitate businesses that want to provide essential medical supplies and equipment.

So far, the program, through its website, has received more than 14,000 submissions from local businesses to provide everything from gowns, coveralls and masks to face shields, testing equipment and other products/services.

On behalf of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, and all Ontarians, I applaud Kusendova and all of the frontline workers who are putting themselves at risk to keep us safe and to minimize the spread of this deadly disease.

 

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