'Give us the chance': Cross-border nurses rejected from Windsor-Essex vaccine volunteering
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Some nurses who live in Windsor and work in Michigan are irate that the Windsor Essex County Health Unit is rejecting their volunteer applications to administer vaccines.
“We’re all fully vaccinated. We all wear the same PPE. What is the difference between us and the nurses that work at Met?” says Connie Lepore who works at a hospital in Michigan.
Lepore says she has a licence to nurse in both Ontario and Michigan, is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and was willing to volunteer her time for four months to help.
Lepore says it is another example of the “discrimination” cross-border nurses are facing in the pandemic.
“Not only from the health unit but even receiving our own healthcare in Windsor, going to the dentist, going to the doctor, going for any tests, going for labs, going in, to have your hair done,” says Lepore.
“It’s just been a year of this, and we’re all tired. We want to be treated like the rest of the citizens in our community and we’re willing to step up, just give us the chance.”
Another cross-border nurse, Erica Lester agrees.
“We are willing to help out our community by volunteering,” says Lester. “It’s unfortunate that most of us nurses working in Michigan are already vaccinated, but they still see us as a threat.”
Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health for WECHU, defended the decision saying their rule from the outset of the pandemic for cross-border health care workers will not be changing now.
“Our broader guidelines have always been clear we have asked the health care worker to work on one side of the border,” says Ahmed.
Ahmed says cross-border essential workers should be isolating when they come home from work, “as best as possible.”
“They’re not supposed to be outside in, mixing-in with all the rest of the population just because of the border issue and the quarantine issue,” says Ahmed.
The nurses counter they take COVID protocols seriously and saw this as their opportunity to use their skills to help the community.
Lepore and Lester hope raising their concern will convince the WECHU to reverse this decision.
“We want to be treated like the rest of the citizens in our community and we’re willing to step up, just give us the chance,” says Lepore.
Sean Hopkins is a critical care nurse at Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit who volunteered to vaccinate Windsorites, and was rejected Thursday.
He calls the decision “disheartening”.
“We go through great extent to protect ourselves and our families and we’re shunned by our community because of it,” says Hopkins.
Hopkins, who’s been nursing in Michigan for nearly 25 years, saw this as an opportunity to give back to his home town.
“They’re just not interested in us, which is sad,” he says.