Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

The new COVID-19 clinic at the site of the former Hotel Dieu hospital is seen in Montreal on March 9.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

A mother with two children at home, offering to work on evenings and weekends. A senior citizen, hoping to correct misinformation about COVID-19. A newly retired nurse, calling up her hospital and offering to come back.

They are just three of the thousands of current and former nurses, doctors and other health-care workers from across the country who have answered their governments’ call, putting off retirements and possibly risking their own safety to join the fight against COVID-19.

As the number of cases rises rapidly, leading to fears of an overwhelmed health-care system, some provinces have begun reaching out to recently retired doctors and nurses to ask them to return to work if the pandemic worsens. The answer has been a resounding yes.

Story continues below advertisement

Quebec set up an email address over the weekend, inviting anyone with health-care experience who wished to help with COVID-19 to contact the government.

The enthusiastic response prompted an emotional Premier François Legault to declare himself “proud to be a Quebecer,” and by Tuesday he said 10,000 people had sent in resumés.

Meanwhile, the president of the province’s federation of medical specialists said Tuesday in a tweet that her cellphone was ringing off the hook with offers of help from members.

Next door in Ontario, the Registered Nurses’ Association asked for volunteers to help answer the phone lines for the Telehealth information line. Over 3,000 licensed nurses stepped forward by Monday afternoon. CEO Doris Grinspun said some are recently retired, while others are teaching or working part time.

Further west, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia emailed hundreds of physicians who left the job within the past two years asking them to renew their licences. Regional authorities are still processing the requests, a spokesman said Monday.

For Sylvie Geoffroy in Sherbrooke, the decision to sign up was an easy one. The 59-year-old nurse left her job in November, hoping to take some downtime before seeking a less stressful line of work. But over the weekend, she called up her former hospital and said she was ready to return.

“With the current situation, no, I won’t let them down,” she said in a phone interview. “If I can help, I will.”

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Geoffroy said nurses understand better than anyone how quickly the virus can spread. She said it feels like the health system is preparing for battle.

“As I told my sisters, I said I’m resting before going to the front lines, because that’s how I feel,” she said.

It’s a similar story for Charline Malette, a 31-year-old with two young children at home. Ms. Malette left her job as an auxiliary nurse for the civil service a few months ago, seeking a better work-life balance for her family. But now, even with the kids off from school, the Gatineau woman found herself offering up her spare hours.

“It’s always been in me to want to help people, and with all that’s happening I was definitely going to offer my help,” she said.

Unlike Ms. Geoffroy and Ms. Malette, Marie-Reine Seguin has been out of the workforce for a long time.

But the 74-year-old former nurse, who retired in 2005, has also offered her services, disturbed by the misinformation and panic she sees circulating in her community of Mont-Tremblant, in Quebec’s Laurentians region.

Story continues below advertisement

While she hasn’t practised in a while and acknowledges she can’t work in a hospital due to her age, Ms. Seguin figures she’s well qualified to help with Quebec’s Info-Santé information line, having been part of the original team that launched it “sometime around 1986,” she said.

She said she was prompted to help after seeing panicked shoppers hoarding toilet paper and spreading “nonsense” misinformation about the virus.

“I want to do what I can, offer what I can,” she said. “In any case, I can’t travel,” she added with a laugh.

All three women are worried about the pressures COVID-19 will place on an overburdened health system, where health workers already often complain of mandatory overtime and insufficient resources.

Both Ms. Seguin and Ms. Malette cite the difficult working conditions as the reason they left the job in the first place. Ms. Geoffroy, for her part, says she knows three nurses who are already off the job due to having to self-isolate for the virus.

While the health-care professionals are eager to pitch in, the process won’t necessarily be instant. Those who haven’t renewed permits will have to do so, and even those with valid licences will need training for their new roles. Some provinces, such as Quebec, are negotiating to cover the renewal costs, Ms. Geoffroy said.

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Malette, Ms. Geoffroy and Ms. Seguin are all still waiting to hear from the Quebec government if their services will be needed, and they are impatient to get started. It’s a common sentiment in Ontario too, according to Dr. Grinspun.

“We now have over 3,000 ready to go at any time. In fact, they’re saying, ‘Why aren’t they calling me?” she said.

The spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues, with more cases diagnosed in Canada. The Globe offers the dos and don'ts to help slow or stop the spread of the virus in your community.
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies