Comparative Critical Policy Analysis of SARS and COVID-19 Policy Responses to PSW Mental Health
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This Major Research Project (MRP)assesses policy responses to the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Personal Support Workers (PSWs), a segment of frontline workers, in Canada. Specifically, Iassess how the experience of the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)epidemicis informing policy responses to the mental health challenges experienced by PSWs under COVID-19. Despite the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Canada reporting over half a million cases and over 15,000 deaths due to COVID-19 as of December 31st, 2020, this is not the first emergency of its kind in Canada. In 2003, the outbreak of SARS led to close to 500 cases and 44 deaths, resulting in the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada. It was then reported that PSWs who provided care to SARS patients experienced poor mental health outcomes -anxiety, occupational burnout, depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which persisted twoyears after the epidemic. COVID-19, substantially more impactful, poses a much greater challenge to the mental health of PSWs. Drawing from a Marxist Feminist perspective –most PSW are low-income and female -thiscritical comparative policy analysis appraises publicly available documents (e.g., Learning from SARS –Renewal of Public Health in Canada) that represent SARS and COVID-19 policy responses. Preliminary findings suggest that policy responses so far have almost entirely missed key lessons learned from the SARS experience. Myanalysis elaborates on these findings and their implications for practice, policy, and equity.