Ontario health-care workers struggle with burnout as economy poised to reopen

Bracing for impact, front-line workers in Ontario continue providing care as the threat of a third wave of COVID-19 infections looms against the backdrop of an economy poised to reopen.

Restrictions in Ontario are easing up, and in-person schooling in COVID-19 hot spots, including Toronto, York and Peel regions, is slated to resume next week.

While many people are happy about these measures, some health-care workers say it’s too much too soon, with some raising concerns about another spike in COVID-19 cases, and effects of the burnout happening on the front lines.

Read more: Front-line nurses suffering psychological distress, burn-out amid COVID-19: association

“I feel like we kind of got tumbled out of a waterfall, and just popped our heads up for a breath,” emergency room physician Dr. Steve Flindall, told Global News, “and now we are being sent towards another set of rapids.”

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Flindall worries a third wave of COVID-19 could materialize in Ontario within a matter of weeks.

“I’m afraid it’s going to be less than a month, I’m worried with schools going back, and the simultaneous reopening of businesses, the doubling rate of the U.K. variant… it could be quite explosive if people drop their guard,” said Flindall.

Click to play video 'COVID Variants: Will they cause Canada’s third wave?' COVID Variants: Will they cause Canada’s third wave?

COVID Variants: Will they cause Canada’s third wave?

Some family physicians have said they are stretched to the limit. “If I burn out, if I say ‘that’s it I can’t do it anymore,’ or if I get sick and I get COVID, I will have 1,500 patients that that don’t have a doctor,” said Ottawa family physician Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth.

She recalls how one of her colleagues from Alberta told her, to avoid burnout, it’s important to ‘pass the baton’ in order to keep going. “The problem is there isn’t anyone to pass it to, because we are all tired,” Kaplan-Myrth said.

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Read more: Research finds stress, anxiety climbing for health-care workers during COVID-19 pandemic

DJ Sanderson is a nurse, and also serves on the board of directors for the Ontario Nurses’ Association. Sanderson said he is worried the decisions being made by the provincial government will only contribute to the stress on the front lines.

“The stress, the workload, the short staffing, the long shifts in full PPE, [it’s] just wearing on them to the point where they just can’t take it anymore,” Sanderson said.

In some cases he said, the burnout is so significant nurses are starting to leave the profession earlier than they had planned.

“We are hearing back from a number of our members, that in all honesty had planned on working a number of years, [that even though] they enjoy their careers, they’ve now started putting in for early retirement,” said Sanderson.

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“Something needs to be done quickly to make sure there is a system that can take another wave.”

Click to play video '‘Nobody wants a third wave’ of COVID-19 infections, Trudeau says' ‘Nobody wants a third wave’ of COVID-19 infections, Trudeau says

‘Nobody wants a third wave’ of COVID-19 infections, Trudeau says

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