Trade unions representing health workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are praising the province’s health authorities in their response to the cyberattack, which pushed daily and specialized medical services up in the last 12 days with some services not yet fully returned.
By this point, workers had already dealt with a pandemic and a stretched workforce.
Yvette Coffey, president of Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador (RNUNL), told CBC News on Wednesday that it has been a hectic time.
“Our workers are just really busy right now trying to adjust and work through the system,” Coffey said.
“We are in regular communication with the RHAs, with the Ministry of Health, and we advocate that our members have the extra support they need for mental health and the extra support for the increased workload in the workplace right now.”
RNUNL represents 5,300 nurses throughout the province.
This week, the provincial government revealed that personal information about patients and healthcare professionals in Eastern Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health had been stolen in the cyber attack. It later withdrew from this allegation, saying officials were not sure if the hackers had achieved anything.
Coffey said the RHAs acknowledged the increased anxiety and stress that the situation has on the workers.
“They do everything in their power to add extra mental health resources, and instruct our members, all health professionals and the general public to go to the mental health resources,” she said.
“We all just need to be careful now with our information to make sure it is not misused, to follow the advice of the regional health authorities and the government.”
Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), said a lack of response from his union members came as a surprise. He said very few members actually approached the union directly.
NAPE represents 10,000 health care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador, with about 5,000 of them in the Eastern Health Region.
Earle said the RHAs have provided direct information to his union members with financial insurance and mental health. He said he gives credit to the RHAs and the government for providing the information they can to the people who need it most, such as his members.
“Healthcare professionals have been through 20 months with what most people can not even imagine, so to have it on top of that, I can only imagine the level of stress they are at,” he said.
“What’s incredible is the minimal level of complaints. Very few complaints.”
Looking ahead, Earle said he wants to have talks on how to avoid potential attacks in the future, what the province did right, what can be done differently and what can be done better.
He said the federal government should also take some responsibility for health and safety across the country.
“I think we have to do it together,” he said.
“What we want to know is what is being done to protect information going forward.”
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