Union leaders praise health authorities' response to N.L. cyberattack

·3 min read
Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union Newfoundland and Labrador, says it has been a busy time for health care workers.  (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union Newfoundland and Labrador, says it has been a busy time for health care workers. (Emma Grunwald/CBC - image credit)
Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Unions representing health care workers in Newfoundland and Labrador are praising the province's health authorities in their response to the cyberattack which upended daily and specialized medical services for the last 12 days with some services yet to completely return.

To this point, workers had already been dealing with a pandemic and a stretched work force.

Yvette Coffey, president of the Registered Nurses' Union Newfoundland and Labrador (RNUNL), told CBC News on Wednesday 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 Department of Health, and we are advocating that our members have the extra support they need for mental health and the extra support for the increased workload in work places right now."

RNUNL represents 5,300 nurses and nurse practitioners across the province.

This week the provincial government revealed that personal information of patients and health care employees of Eastern Health and Labrador-Grenfell Health had been stolen in the cyberattack. It later backed away from that assertion, saying officials weren't sure if anything was obtained by the hackers.

Emma Grunwald/CBC
Emma Grunwald/CBC

Coffey said the RHAs recognized the increased anxiety and stress the situation is having on workers.

"They're doing everything in their power to add extra mental health resources, directing our members, all health care workers and the public to go to the mental health resources," she said.

"We all just need to be diligent now with our information to make sure that it isn't misused, to follow the advice of the regional health authorities and the government."

Collaborative work

Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), said a lack of reaction from his union's members came as a surprise. He said very few members actually reached out to the union directly.

NAPE represents 10,000 workers in health care in Newfoundland and Labrador, with about 5,000 of those in the Eastern Health region.

Earle said the RHAs have been giving direct information to his union's members with financial reassurances and mental health supports. He said he gives credit to the RHAs and government for providing what information it can to the people who need it most, such as his members.

"Health care workers have been through 20 months of what most can't even imagine, then to have this on top of it, I can only imagine the stress levels they're at," he said.

"What's unbelievable is the minimal level of complaint. Very little complaint."

Looking ahead, Earle said he wants to have conversations about 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 also needs to take some responsibility for health and security across the country.

"I think we've got to do that collaboratively," he said.

"What we want to know is what is being done to protect information going forward."

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