The Hub New study finds health care workers in Ontario feeling sacrificed

New study finds health care workers in Ontario feeling sacrificed

This year, we’ve seen the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the health care system, and it has highlighted the systemic weaknesses that exist.


A new study authored by Athabasca University (AU) tutor Dr. James T. Brophy and his colleagues Dr. Margaret M. Keith, Michael Hurley, and Jane E. McArthur details the experiences of Ontario health care workers and the psychological toll the pandemic has placed on them and gives them a voice. This was a collaborative study between the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/Canadian Union of Public Employees (OCHU-CUPE) and academic researchers affiliated with the University of Windsor.

The research for the study titled Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19 took place during the first wave of the pandemic in Ontario. The researchers spoke extensively with 10 health care workers.

According to Brophy, while this study focuses on an Ontario perspective, it can be mirrored across the country and the world.

“The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions issued a substantial report that reflected both the lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as the emotional trauma faced by so many healthcare workers,” he said. “Our study captures the experience of Ontario healthcare workers but mirrors what is now widespread in healthcare facilities everywhere.”

Brophy and his colleagues have been working on other studies relating to healthcare workers’ experiences. Still, in this specific study, he and his team were surprised to learn about the high levels of stress, anxiety, fear, and anger that the workers were experiencing. They felt abandoned and unsupported by the government.

“These studies exposed the deep systemic problems of understaffing and underfunding. The studies also revealed a work culture in which healthcare workers fear discipline and reprisals for speaking out about the serious problems in their workplaces,” he said. “The pandemic has heightened even further the collapse of the regulatory system and the failure to follow the recommendations of the Ontario SARS Commission.”

Based on the healthcare workers’ experiences, the study makes recommendations to staffing levels, workplace culture, and adequate PPE. The authors recommend that these changes be made immediately to mitigate the psychological effects of the pandemic.

You can read the full study by visiting the SAGE Journals site. The study has also been written about by many media outlets, you can read a piece about it in The Conversation.

Jim Brophy Margaret Keith
Dr. James T. Brophy and Dr. Margaret M. Keith
  • December 17, 2020