OPINION: Death by complacency or neglect – take your pick

Phil Nelson

I would be the first to admit I was naive enough to believe our country’s leaders were prepared for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Phil Nelson

After all, we’d heard numerous times about the lessons learned from SARS, how we were prepared for the next pandemic.

Instead, pitifully low supplies of personal protective equipment, political and financially driven decisions, and the conflicting advice of our leaders, has resulted in the death of so many, including the very front-line workers who risk their lives to help the sick.

It’s tragic that parents, grandparents and family members are now dying alone without a loved one’s touch. An image widely circulated in the media captured an 86-year-old lady looking out the window at a family member. She too has since passed away, holding a nurse’s hand, while family look in from outside.

I, at least, had the comfort of my parents passing away in my presence. My family was spared the anguish so many now face of trying to communicate with a loved one in a quarantined long-term care facility.

The priority of any country claiming to be democratic should be the health and welfare of its people. No higher duty is placed on its leaders.

That means good-paying jobs and protection when faced with a pandemic. I say “good-paying jobs” because we now know some health-care workers were working two and three jobs to survive, increasing the risk this deadly disease would follow them from home to home.

Failure to properly evaluate this disease, the false assumptions and poor decision-making, has produced a rising death toll and forced countless Canadians out of work.

It should not have taken an Ontario Superior Court Judge to direct that proper protective equipment be given to front-line workers, so they could safely carry out their duties. To say they wanted the proper equipment for reasons of self-interest is unprofessional and callous.

What’s playing out daily in our senior homes —so many residents dying while denied the touch of a loved one — is a disgrace to humanity.

Petri-dish diseases have occurred many times in the past, and armed with that knowledge, the loved ones living in senior residences deserved to be protected.

For the staff members who have risked their lives to be there for the sick and dying, you are owed so much.

For the home administrators who took immediate action to curb this disease, I applaud you and thank you for being professional and loving.

We must all remember that one day we too could spend our remaining days in a home. If we don’t act now to ensure the proper protocols and lifesaving equipment is in place, our complacency could very well spell our own demise.

Governments are accountable to those who put them in power. It is incumbent upon them to have the best interests of the people as their top priority, not priorities not driven by politics and finance.

It is quite simple, really. If our leaders can’t do the job they are sworn to do, they should step aside and let someone else do it.

Phil Nelson is the former Chief of the Sarnia Police Service