United Nurses of Alberta President Heather Smith is calling on the Alberta government to introduce legislation guaranteeing fast access to workers’ compensation benefits for health care workers who contract COVID-19.
In a letter sent to Premier Jason Kenney, Smith stressed the importance of presumptive legislation that would allow frontline health care workers access to compensation without having to prove their illness was contracted in their workplace.
“Through the nature of their work – treating COVID-19 patients or being exposed to an environment with individuals testing positive for COVID-19 – it should come as little surprise that health care workers have been disproportionately infected with the virus across the country,” wrote Smith.
Health care workers face higher risks of potential COVID-19 infections and data from the U.S. and the U.K. has shown that frontline health care workers have nearly 12 times higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than individuals from the general population.
More than one in five cases of COVID-19 in Canada is a health care worker, amounting to 20,891 cases as of July 16, 2020.
“Nurses and other health care workers who contract the virus should focus their limited energies on resting up, so that they can get back to providing care for others,” wrote Smith. “I am calling on you to show your gratitude for this province’s health care workers and provide presumptive coverage for them when they contract COVID-19.”
“These workers should not be forced to wait for – or even be denied – access to workers’ compensation benefits after falling ill with this virus,” concluded Smith.