Another round of nervous but excited health-care workers hopped aboard a Hercules aircraft at St. John’s airport Tuesday morning headed for COVID-19-stricken Ontario.
The St. John’s-based team, three doctors and two nurses, were to pick up two more members in Deer Lake and Stephenville before the final leg of the flight. They will all work in Brampton, one of the hardest-hit areas of Ontario.
“I’m excited, and I can’t wait to get there, and I just want to be part of it. I want to help,” Dr. Art Rideout told reporters during a brief availability, where he made a point of wishing his mother a happy Mother’s Day in his absence.
“Being able to help people anywhere is a good thing, and if we can do it in our own country, I think that’s a special thing.”
Premier Andrew Furey was at the hangar to see the team off, and admitted he’s having trouble with the fact that he’s not leading the mission, as he did for years with Team Broken Earth missions to Haiti.
“It’s been a hard adjustment leaving the medical profession to the side. Harder than I thought,” he said.
A nurse who has been on some of those missions, Michelle Murphy, was one of the members of Tuesday’s group.
“I have a lot of emotions. I’m nervous, I really don’t know what we’re facing. I’m excited,” she said. “I’m honoured to be able to give back to my own country. I’ve travelled a lot with Team Broken Earth. It’s kind of strange being here today and the premier’s on the other side of the fence.”
She joked about how she consulted her three boys, aged 15-20, when she got the news last week.
“I sat them all down and I said, ‘Guys, Ontario’s calling for help and I need all of your honest opinions how you feel about me going.’ And their immediate response was, ‘You’re not asking us, Mom, you’re telling us you’re going.’”
Murphy said she is slated to stay in Ontario for two weeks.
The premier dismissed suggestions the Ontario missions are taking away much needed health-care staff from this province, especially in Labrador.
“That’s a false equivalency,” he said. “We’re not really comparing apples to apples there. This is an acute crisis."
Furey said he has been working with the Newfoundland and Labrador Registered Nurses’ Union on different models that could help in this province.
“We had a great call about that the other day.”
When asked, Murphy echoed Furey’s remarks.
“I don’t think there’s really any comparison. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and Ontario’s going through a really tough time. They’re exhausted. We’re not. There’s no comparison between here and Ontario right now.”
The first team to head to Ontario left a week ago and included the premier’s wife, Dr. Allison Furey.
The length of stay varies with each team member, ranging from 10 days to a month or more.
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram