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Premier Higgs Should 'Do the Right Thing'

After the New Brunswick Premier reacted to media click bait and irresponsibly threw healthcare workers under the bus without knowing the facts, some nurses are demanding an apology - and they should get one.

As most of us are aware, it was recently revealed that a young woman who had been sexually assaulted and needed medical care as well as a rape kit performed to preserve the evidence against her assailant, was turned away from the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton and asked to come back the next day when a specially trained nurse would be available.

That was the spark the ever-present tinderbox of public emotion surrounding our crumbling healthcare system needed in order to ignite a wave of online hate and disgust at the people working their shift in the hospital that night. Then, after the damage was already done, we found out the staff was merely following Horizon protocol due to management's failure to ensure enough trained specialists. Typical.

And our healthcare workers feel it.

In an interview with CBC, Janet Matheson, a nurse of 45 years, who works and the DECH and is trained as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) stated, "We're [nurses] being thrown under the bus, crucified in the public". She's not wrong.

If we've learned anything in the last two-plus years, it's that critical thinking has gone out the window and instead has been replaced with click-bait, fear mongering, virtuous outrage at the topic du jour and blame-shifting. But shouldn't the Premier be held to a higher standard? We think so.

Without knowing all the facts surrounding this incident, Premier Higgs gave a statement to CBC and wrote, "This is an unacceptable situation and reflective of a process guided by very poor decision-making and a lack of compassion." LOL, I'm sure he doesn't even see the irony of that statement.

So who's fault is it? Is it the fault of nurses who are not in charge of recruitment? Nurses who are not in charge of scheduling? Nurses who are not in charge of ensuring more healthcare workers receive specialized training as others retire or relocate?

Hmmm, let's think, let's think.

This is a long shot but we did learn this week that the Vitalité Health Network has only 14 SANE trained nurses, down from 40 in 2015. Vitalité CEO Frances Derosiers told members of the New Brunswick Legislature that there were challenges in getting more training including the pandemic. Well, the pandemic started in 2020, what is the excuse for the 5 years before that? But at least now they're going to make training a priority. Horizon only has 26 SANE trained nurses.

Sooooo maybe it's a management issue?

If we go back to the Premier's statement that this situation is reflective of poor decision-making and lack of compassion, if he were to direct it at the right people, we would 100% agree with him.

A true leader understands the facts before speaking, a great leader apologizes when he's made a mistake.

And hopefully Premier Higgs will give that apology. During the same interview, Ms. Matheson stated that she knew of two colleagues who have decided they aren't taking extra shifts until they get a public apology. How many others are planning the same but are simply not saying it out loud? The Premier actually owes a lot of New Brunwickers an apology for his words and actions in the past year, we hope our nurses get one.

It was about a year ago that the Premier and his underlings began their campaign to vilify people who had chosen not to take a COVID-19 vaccine. We were blamed for everything from putting our children and communities at risk, killing grandma and overloading our healthcare system, none of which were true.

When he mandated that all healthcare workers were to take the vaccine or lose their jobs, we knew how detrimental that would be on an already fragile system and we tried to stand up for them. Protests in support of healthcare workers broke out all across the country and here at home.

But the media lied and said there were driveways blocked, people were prevented from accessing appointments and healthcare workers were assaulted. I was at the one in Moncton, none of this was true. In fact, the only thing I witnessed that came close to an assault was when a healthcare worker, still in her scrubs, stopped her car in front of myself and a group of others, rolled her window down, gave us the finger and screamed "I hope you all get COVID and fucking die you bunch of fucking losers!"

Did the Premier check to see if what the media portrayed that day is correct? Who knows, but what he did do was parrot the lies as reported by media and this is what he said in a following COVID briefing:

"I find it appalling, really, that anyone would be opposing or standing in front of a hospital and be basically harassing those who are going in to look after individuals who are there because they have chosen not to protect themselves. When you have a situation that is preventable, and so clearly preventable, and choose not to participate, but then to make it worse, but to actually harass those who are protecting those very individuals, it's kind of shocking to me."

He then went on to say, "I know about instances where nurses have been subjected to harassment and abuse, and this is completely unacceptable. I know of situations where nurses have to walk through lines of protesters to get to their jobs. It must be extremely difficult to do that, and spend your shift working with patients in ICU who are unvaccinated."

All lies and no one stood up to defend us, no one.

So, like healthcare workers are experiencing now, we know what it's like to be the villain, the scapegoats, blamed for all the problems in the healthcare system. To have lies about us spread by the media, parroted by officials and blindly accepted by the public.

And here is some advice; don't count on the public or even your own family and friends for that matter, to take a stand with you and have your backs. We've also learned that most people are quite happy to bitch on social media but lack the courage needed to actually effect change. They'll complain about long wait times, closed emergency rooms, lack of access to a family doctor and spread every malicious post they find about you, but very few will actually help to fix it. Sometimes out of apathy but a lot of times out of fear that they too will be judged and labeled as misogynist, racist conspiracy theorists like we have been.

Media and government know that shame and fear is a pretty big motivator for good people to stay quiet.

How can we help? We're still willing to stand with you, we're just waiting for you to reach out and ask.

Let's talk about the real hero in this story.

The real hero in this story is the young woman, who after suffering such an unimaginable trauma which was amplified by a crumbling healthcare system, still had the courage to speak out publicly about her experience. Because of her the issue of the lack of SANE trained nurses has been highlighted, corrective measures are being put in place and she has single-handedly ensured that no other rape victim in New Brunswick will have to be told to 'come back later' on what is undoubtedly one of the absolute worst days of their life.

On top of that, because of the vilification of the government and media, she has had to speak out again and defend our healthcare workers. That is what courage and integrity look like and are the actions of a great leader.

Premier Higgs needs to, in his words, "do the right thing" and issue that apology.


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