ONA in the News
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is frequently a health industry source and/or quoted in newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations across the province and nationally. Read the latest articles in which ONA is featured:
January 14: Two unions say their latest round of talks with Quinte Health Care have given them “little cause for optimism” (Belleville Intelligencer, January 14, 2015.) OPSEU says the hospital’s “token gesture” of involving unions in restructuring discussions were just going through the motions, and the employer knows that there are no counterproposals unions have that could possibly have an effect. Ontario hospitals are receiving less funding as the province “tries to bolster its community care programs” and that has left QHC with a $12-million shortfall in the fiscal year beginning in April. Unions want QHC management to stop telling the public that everything is okay. “You can’t cut $12 million from your budget and you can’t cut staff and still have the same level of service. It’s just not common sense,” says OPSEU staff representative Ivan Herrington. Unifor Local 8300 president Jake Gibson says QHC’s plans likely won’t work. He says senior staff are not meeting an article in the collective agreement requiring the hospital to announce within 20 days whether they will fill vacancies. QHC has also met with representatives of the Ontario Nurses’ Association and SEIU.
January 13: ONA and the City of Thunder Bay have ratified a new two-year contract (CBC Radio 1, January 13, 2015.) The agreement covers 58 full-time and part-time nurses working at three homes for the aged. The contract provides a 1.4-per-cent wage increase for each year.
January 12: As the Ontario Nurses’ Association and OPSEU continue to raise concerns about growing workplace violence in the healthcare sector, CAMH has responded to the attacks on two nurses recently (Parkdale Villager, January 12, 2015.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that “it’s high time that CAMH management recognizes – and takes steps to eliminate – the factors that are contributing to this epidemic of workplace violence.” In response, CAMH chief of nursing and professional practice Rani Srivastava said that “staff and patient safety are inextricably linked at CMAH as our highest priority….there is a lot of work going on to prevent workplace violence at CAMH at the leadership level as well as on the ground.” In the fiscal year 2013-14, CAMH reported 514 workplace violence incidents, with 453 involving physical assaults or abuse. That is a 29-per-cent increase over the previous year. ONA suggests that the risk can be decreased by hiring properly trained security professionals that would work around the clock.
January 12: North Bay Regional is cutting 75 positions to balance its budget, and the Ontario Nurses’ Association is losing 16 of 22 full-time RN jobs (North Bay Nugget, January 12, 2015.) CUPE Local 139 president Shawn Shark says that the number of cuts – especially to nursing positions – is a surprise. The hospital slashed 34 jobs in June and cut another 40 nursing jobs in April 2013. CUPE will lose 27 full-time positions, including 10 RPNs. OPSEU will lose eight full-time positions.
January 9: The City of Windsor must pay RNs at Huron Lodge more than $125,000 in an arbitration award (Windsor Star, January 9, 2015.) Ontario Nurses’ Association President says the award spans three years and represents a battle that is rare and unnecessary. Linda Haslam-Stroud says she was personally “very disappointed in the employer’s position at the table.” Homes for the aged, she says, traditionally pay their nurses what their hospital counterparts are paid. Windsor is one of the few jurisdictions that challenged this, and in the end had to pay what the union asked for. The RNs will received zero per cent increases for the first two years, receive lump sum payments, and a 2.75-per-cent increase in the third year of the contract, which expired in 2014. A new contract must now be negotiated.
January 9: The Ontario Nurses’ Association and OPSEU have charged that two more nurses have been attacked and injured in the last week at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Queen’s Park Briefing, January 9, 2015.) ONA and OPSEU add that the incidents show the growing problem of workplace violence in the province’s healthcare sector. Linda Haslam-Stroud, ONA President, says that “it’s high time that CAMH management recognizes – and takes steps to eliminate – the factors that are contributing to this epidemic of workplace violence. The employer needs to immediately work with us and address staffing levels, policies and risk assessment procedures.” CAMH is facing Ministry of Labour charges under the Occupational Health & Safety Act related to a violent incident nearly a year ago. In the fiscal year 2013-14, CAMH reported 514 workplace violence incidents, 453 of which involved physical assaults or abuse.
January 1: The Ministry of Labour is investigating after a Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) nurse was allegedly attacked by a patient (Toronto Star, January 1, 2015.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that in the incident, “the nurse was shoved by the patient and then hit in the head a number of times, and she was basically taken by ambulance to hospital, and she hasn’t been back to work.” CAMH was recently charged by the ministry over a different beating of a nurse by a patient, back in January, 2014. Four charges have been laid in that incident, including failing to provide sufficient information and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence. CAMH says it will vigorously defend itself. ONA noted that there were 453 incidents of violence in the last fiscal year. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, “Our patients need to be provided appropriate care. However, our nurses cannot be put at this high level of risk continuously and it is happening more frequently with significant injuries.”
December 24: Brockville Mental Health Centre is facing five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act relating to alleged worker safety violations (December 24, 2014). The Ontario Ministry of Labour says the charges against the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group operating as Brockville Mental Health Centre are related to the incident in October in which a nurse was stabbed by a patient in the forensic unit. The ministry says the centre had failed to provide sufficient information, instruction and supervision to protect an employee from workplace violence or the risk from a patient. It also accuses the facility of failing to implement safety devices, measures and procedures to protect an employee from workplace violence or risk from a patient. Toronto’s CAMH faces similar changes. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that health and safety charges do not seem to be effective in persuading health providers to ensure safe workplaces. “It seems that it’s going to take criminal charges against the CEO, directors, and managers to make health care employers take seriously their responsibility for ensuring our workplaces are safe,” she said.
December 23: CP24 (December 23, 2014) reports that the Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid four charges against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health related to the beating of a nurse. The charges come under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The Ontario Nurses’ Association had been urging the government to lay charges.
December 24: The Ontario Ministry of Labour has laid charges against the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health after a nurse was brutally beaten last January (Toronto Star, December 24, 2014.) The ministry laid four charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, including failing to provide sufficient information and supervision to protect a worker and failing to implement measures and procedures to protect workers. It faces a maximum $2 million fine if convicted of all four charges. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that “it shouldn’t have to come to this. Employers have an obligation, no matter what, to ensure the safety of patients and staff.” She added that if charges are “the only thing that will have this employer pay attention, then I guess that’s what it has to be.”
December 22: A lawyer for The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group says that if the Ottawa Citizen had restricted itself “to reporting what was in” an Ontario Nurses’ Association media release, the hospital would not be in court arguing for a stay in proceedings in the trial against it (Ottawa Citizen, December 22, 2014.) Hospital lawyer Stephen Bird told the court that the hospital doesn’t need proof that coverage of the trial has possibly tainted future witnesses’ testimony. The Citizen is opposing a publication ban of proceedings, as is the Ontario Ministry of Labour. The Royal is in court facing three charges under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act: failing to provide proper training to protect workers’ health and safety; failing to take proper precautions to protect workers; and failing to develop proper measures for workers to summon help in an emergency.
December 18: A new collective agreement has been reached between the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (CIMJ FM, December 18, 2014.) The deal has been ratified by both sides and will include wage gains of four and one-half percent, spread over three years.
December 18: The Ontario Nurses’ Association and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health have both signed a three-year collective agreement (The Fountain Pen, December 18, 2014.) The agreement includes modest pay increases for public health nurses: two per cent in the first year, 1.5 per cent in the second and one per cent in the final year of the three-year agreement.
December 19: ONA is working to arrange a meeting with the provincial government and Ministry of Health to develop a strategy to prevent violence against nurses (OH&S Canada magazine, December 19, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she has spoken with one of the premier’s staff and she expects to be “getting together to discuss further how to develop some kind of action plan.” Southlake Regional Health Centre is the site of the latest serious attack on a nurse. The nurses had already requested additional security to help them deal with Form 1 patients but did not receive the assistance. In addition, management had taken away nurses’ panic alarms because they were deemed to be too expensive, but they were returned following the attack.
December 19: ONA is calling for the Ministry of Labour to press charges against Southlake Regional Health Centre following another violent incident (OH&S Canada magazine, December 19, 2014.) A patient assaulted a nurse in the ER at the beginning of December; ONA sent a media release charging that Southlake had failed to protect its staff properly. ONA Vice-President Andy Summers says that security failed to take over the observation of a patient and when the incident occurred, security was not able to respond. This was the latest of several such incidents at Southlake. Most notably, last year a patient beat up a nurse and injured three others. Summers says such incidents are increasing, and that unfortunately, “this is going to escalate to the point where a nurse is…going to die.”
December 15: Charges are being sought against Southlake Regional Health Centre after a registered nurse was assaulted by a patient while working in the emergency room (OHS Canada, East Gwillimbury Era, December 15, 2014.)The Ontario Nurses’ Association wants the Ministry of Labour to press charges against the hospital for failing to properly protect staff. A similar violent incident in 2013 saw a nurse and three others injured by a patient. In that case the patient was arrested for assault but no charges were laid against the hospital. “This is a problem that we’ve noticed across the province, that police are reluctant to lay charges,” says Andy Summers, ONA’s vice-president of health and safety. He blames much of the problem on a common belief “that violence is inherently part of a nurse’s job. And that pervasive culture, I think, may be not unique in Ontario, but is very, very present up at Southlake.” A 29-year-old man has been charged with assault and two counts of failing to comply with probation in relation to the most recent incident.
December 13: Heightened workplace safety concerns will be taken into account as plans move forward to add a new two-bed unit to the Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC) for the treatment of mental health issues in women in federal police custody (Brockville Recorder and Times, December 13, 2014.) Staff concerns over workplace safety at the facility came to the forefront after the October 10 stabbing of a nurse by a patient. The incident led to a complaint from the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Ministry of Labour orders to upgrade security measures. Nicole Loreto, the vice-president of communications for the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, says that they have been consulting with staff on security concerns while designing the new unit. The unit is part of a pilot project launched in response to the findings of the coroner’s inquest into the 2007 death of Ashley Smith, a woman with mental health issues who died by suicide while being held at a federal correctional facility.
December 12: In a letter to the editor in the Windsor Star, ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna thanks the public and local media for continuing to focus on the “plight” faced by health-care workers at Leamington District Memorial Hospital where budget challenges have led to a proposal to close the hospital’s already underfunded obstetrics unit (December 12, 2014.) McKenna hopes that the kind of “public outcry” the community responded with when faced with a one third cut to home care services will continue in the fight to save Leamington’s obstetrics unit and CCAC services.
December 11: The Ontario Nurses’ Association wants the Ministry of Labour to issue charges against Southlake Regional Health Centre after a nurse was physically assaulted by an emergency room patient last week (Newmarket Era, December 11, 2014.) The Union says the hospital is responsible “for failing to ensure the safety of staff.” Reports of workplace violence for health-care workers are on the rise; in 2013 another incident at Southlake left a nurse with serious injuries. ONA Regional Vice-President Andy Summers says that “incidents are at epidemic proportions” and worries that “no one will pay attention until someone dies on the job.” He says that while Southlake has taken steps since the 2013 incident, including the creation of its Corporate Workplace Violence Prevention Committee, there have been no substantive changes to improve or protect worker safety.
December 11: More staffing cuts are coming to Quinte Health Care as the organization looks to close a $12-million funding gap (Belleville EMC, December 11, 2014.) QHC’s director of communications says the hospital will “strive to make sure they don’t impact patient care.” Among the union leaders that management met with this week are the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Unifor, Ontario Public Services Employees Union and SEIU Healthcare. During the meetings, the union leaders will offer their suggestions for saving money. Last year, QHC cut 80 jobs. Unifor Local 8300 president Jake Gibson noted that there are 59 employees earning more than $100,000 yearly, yet when management cuts staff, “it’s always on the back of the workers. We’re getting cut or are expected to do more.” He believes that rather than target relatively low-paid front-line workers, the hospital should focus on management cuts.
December 10: Violence in healthcare workplaces is an epidemic, says Andy Summers, Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association (Yahoo Canada, December 10, 2014.) While some professions seem like naturals for experiencing violence – soldier, police officer or nightclub bouncer – nursing is a surprise. Summers says there is little being done to improve the safety and security of health care providers. “We have, particularly in health care, this pervasive culture of accepting risk of violence as essentially part of the job,” he says. “Even nurses themselves somehow have brought into this sentiment that being hit or punched or bitten or yelled at and abused is essentially part of their day-to-day work.” The point was brought home in the last week as a nurse and a doctor were assaulted in two BC hospitals and a nurse was injured at an Ontario facility. In Ontario, a nurse at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket was attacked by a patient in the ER, and a nurse in Brockville was repeatedly stabbed with a pen. A 2009 Statistics Canada survey found half of the nurses working in geriatric and long-term care facilities reported being physically assaulted in the previous year. Summers says that he has to persuade his own peers that they don’t have to accept that nursing is a dangerous job.
December 8: ONA is pressing the Ministry of Labour to issue charges following yet another violent attack on a nurse at Southlake Regional Health Centre (Nurses’ Newsline, December 8, 2014.) ONA and the RN are holding Southlake Regional responsible for failing to ensure the safety of staff. In 2013, the same hospital had another serious attack that resulted in a nurse being injured. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that in this incident, the nurses recognized the volatile nature of their situation and asked for security’s help. Again, they were left without help and “suffered the consequences.” Haslam-Stroud says the hospital continues to show disregard for health and safety laws and the safety of its nurses. “Enough is enough,” she said. “Nursing doesn’t have to be dangerous work.”
December 9: A letter to the editor of the Windsor Star (December 9, 2014) from ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna thanks the newspaper for its thorough coverage of challenges faced by both the Erie St. Clair CCAC and Leamington District Memorial Hospital. McKenna writes that nurses have the answer to many of the questions posed in the Star by columnist Anne Jarvis. McKenna writes that 30 years of corporate tax cuts have taken billions out of the provincial and federal coffers, and the price that we are paying now is an underfunded healthcare system that is hurting patients. Hospital budgets have been flatlined for years as government said care would be provided in the community. Now we face the prospect of the closure of underfunded hospitals and service cuts, such as the obstetrics unit in Leamington. There are solutions, and this unit could be kept open. The people of Leamington would suffer dearly without it. Nurses know the reality of their patients’ needs. McKenna writes that she hopes the kind of outcry that Windsor residents displayed when a one-third cut to home care services was announced will continue. We must all fight for properly funded, safe, quality, publicly delivered healthcare.
December 9: A letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator (December 9, 2014) says that St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Hamilton has successfully transitioned to RPNs performing new tasks from having RNs perform them. Domenic Di Pasquale, President of CUPE Local 786, notes that at the time the change was announced, ONA said the move was about money only. The hospital “swapped” 58 RN jobs to RPN jobs, and Di Pasquale writes that while at that time, ONA “appeared to disparage the ability of registered practical nurses” to perform the new tasks, the move has been successful. Both RNs and RPNs are dedicated to providing professional, quality care, he says, and CUPE supports and admires the work of RNs. He also writes that “we do not seek to take their jobs. Indeed, given the real funding cuts the Liberal government has imposed for years on St. Joseph’s, we welcome every opportunity to work with registered nurses and their union to stop the cuts and save the services at our vital hospital.”
December 8: The Ontario Nurses’ Association wants the provincial Labour Ministry to charge Southlake Regional Health Centre with health and safety violations after an emergency room nurse was attacked (Queen’s Park Briefing, December 8, 2014.) ONA says that it is pressing the government to lay charges for what it says is the failure of the hospital to ensure the safety of its staff. ONA says the nurses recognized the volatile nature of the situation and called for security, but nothing was done. The hospital had another incident last year. In that incident, York Regional police charged the attacker but not the hospital. “Enough is enough,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. “Nursing doesn’t have to be dangerous work.”
December 3: Chatham-Kent and Lambton County residents were among those who attended a pro-public health care rally at Queen’s Park on November 21 (Chatham This Week, December 3, 2014.) Thousands of Ontarians travelled to Toronto, joining members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Unifor at the Ontario Health Coalition-organized protest. Shirley Roebuck, chair of the local Health Coalition, said that agency officials, doctors, patients and their families all spoke out about the need for keeping community hospitals and local health care services in place. The OHC says the provincial government has been systematically downsizing and dismantling small and rural hospitals and introducing for-profit clinics to the system. Roebuck says that part of the blame is frozen hospital budgets.
December 1: The Ontario Labour Relations Board has issued an interim order for the Brockville Hospital Mental Health Centre to heighten staff security (Canadian Occupational Health & Safety magazine, December 1, 2014.) The Ontario Nurses’ Association says it is of paramount importance to ensure security guards are trained properly in how to safely restrain a patient and to effectively handle violent situations to better protect both patients and workers. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “over the past four years, the acuity of patients…has increased. The mental health illnesses are more complex and require more than one-to-one observation, and certainly this has meant an increase in the potential for violent attacks by patients against our members.”
December 2: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is calling on the provincial government to make nurses’ workplaces safer (Queen’s Park Briefing, December 2, 2014.) The union has launched a campaign to press the Liberals to develop a province-wide strategy to prevent workplace violence. ONA regional vice-president responsible for health and safety, Andy Summers, says that “we need recognition from the government that health care is dangerous and that health care doesn’t have to be dangerous work.” ONA’s most recent push comes following an Ontario Labour Relations Board decision that requires a unit of Brockville Mental Health Centre to have more security staff. The hospital must hire security guards who know how to safely restrain a patient and effectively handle violent situations. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said in a statement that, “this very important ruling recognizes that an employer must take reasonable precautions in the midst of workplace violence.” Summers says that safety needs to be considered in the construction of buildings as well, and that screeners should be behind glass and have some rooms structured so that patients can be seen from inside at all times.
December 1: ONA is applauding a labour board decision to force the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group to increase security for nursing staff (CFRA AM, December 1, 2014.) ONA VP Andy Summers says that the decision “recognizes the fact that the nurses in Brockville have been struggling for some time with adequate resources to provide proper client care in this hazardous environment that they work in, where they have been having numerous violent instances over the last year, and I would say last months and years.”
December 1: ONA is applauding a decision to force Royal Ottawa Health Care Group to increase security for staff at the Brockville Hospital Mental Health Centre’s B-4 Unit (580 CFRA News, December 1, 2014.) The decision comes following a violent attack on a nurse. Security guards are to escort nurses when they provide care to and interact with violent patients. ONA Vice-President Andy Summers says that ONA is happy with the decision as it “recognizes the fact that the nurses in Brockville have been struggling for some time with adequate resources to provide proper client care in this hazardous environment they work in…” He says that there have been numerous violent incidents in the past. ONA is asking the provincial government to create a strategy to deal with workplace violence in the health care sector. ONA has documented some 1,500 attacks on workers at two large Ontario hospitals this year alone.
December 1: The head of the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Care Group is unhappy that local nurse and Ontario Nurses’ Association regional Vice-President Anne Clark has criticized his organization (Metro Ottawa, December 1, 2014.) The newspaper reported that the Ontario Labour Relations Board issued an interim order for the Brockville Mental Health Care Centre to add security guards to the forensic psychiatric unit after a nurse was violently attacked. Clark told Metro she welcomed the additional layer of security and said she was “disappointed” that the hospital tried to block the order. The hospital’s president and CEO, George Weber, issued a statement that said it would obey the order but was “disappointed by the remarks made by Ms Clark.” Weber declined to answer questions about when they would hire the security guards, saying the hospital “is committed to maintaining a healthy work environment for our staff and providing the right therapeutic milieu for our patients.”
November 30: Ottawa nurse and Ontario Nurses’ Association regional vice-president Anne Clark welcomes an interim ruling by the Ontario Labour Board that forced the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group to hire trained security guards to protect nurses from violent patients (Metro, November 30, 2014.) A nurse was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck by a patient at the Brockville Mental Health Centre’s forensic unit on October 10; the nurse was sent to hospital in critical condition, but is now on the mend, says ONA. “There was no one to intervene when our member was attacked,” notes Clark. “Why would you fight us on something that is a norm in most hospitals?” The hospital had protested the cost of hiring security and raised concern with possibly infringing on patients’ Charter rights if the guards touched the patients in a violent incident. OLRB Vice-Chair Kelly Waddingham wrote that the hospital has a “statutory obligation” to protect the health and safety of its nurses, and that it would “not allow cost to trump the safety of nurses and prevention of workplace violence.” The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group is currently on trial in an unrelated matter as well.
November 29: RN and ONA Bargaining Unit President Laurie Kudoba “knows about hospitals” (Waterloo Region Record, November 29, 2014.) The cardiac catheterization unit nurse from St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener says that she strongly believes the hospital deserves a spot among the area’s top-15 employers. “If we have problems here, they are dealt with quickly,” she said. She is in regular contact with ONA reps from across Ontario and says that, “It’s better here compared to most of the other hospitals. [Others] have a lot more difficulties. There’s a record low number of grievances here.” Toronto-based Mediacorp has compiled a list of the top employers in Canada by evaluating employers using eight criteria: physical workplace, health, financial and family benefits, vacation and time off, communications, performance management, training and skills development and community involvement. St. Mary’s made the list.
November 26: About 50 residents of Midland and Penetanguishene joined an Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) protest against hospital cuts Nov. 21 at Queen's Park in Toronto (Midland Mirror; Nov. 26, 2014.) Vicki McKenna, RN, Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) First Vice-President, told the crowd of more than 2,000 that Ontario hospitals have cut more than 1,700 nursing jobs. Hassan Yusseff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), was quoted saying: "It's time to grow our health-care system, not shrink it."
November 25: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is pleased that charges have been laid against the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group for safety and training violations which contributed to a 2012 incident that saw 3 nurses and nurse practitioners violently assaulted by a patient (Ottawa Citizen, November 25, 2014.) Charges against the hospital include: failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker’s safety, failing to provide means for the worker to summon immediate assistance in a case of workplace violence, and failing to take reasonable precautions to protect a worker’s safety. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that incidents of workplace violence against nurses and health-care workers have reached “outrageous” levels. “We should never be attacked while caring for our patients or their families.”
November 26: The CEO of the Erie St. Clair LHIN blames care co-ordinators for excessive workloads facing home-care providers (Windsor Star, November 26, 2014.) Gary Switzer says that care co-ordinators “were providing too broad of a service level to a number of clients and they weren't revisiting their reassessments in a timely fashion” adding that the LHIN is in the process of “educating” care co-ordinators to “ensure that the appropriate care is provided for the appropriate length of time.” ONA’s First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the implication that workers are inappropriately assessing patients is offensive. “It does leave a bad taste in your mouth that they're saying care co-ordinators aren't assessing patients and their needs." McKenna says that cuts to care in the region, and a reliance on underfunded community groups to pick up the slack, could push more people to pay for services out of pocket. “It just doesn't seem like public health care anymore…Bit by bit, piece by piece, the system is being pushed into the private sector.”
November 21: The Chair of the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition says she hopes that the premier and health minister were listening when people from across the province rallied in front of Queen’s Park (Chatham Cogego News TV, November 21, 2014.) Shirley Roebuck and thousands of others marched for an end to the billions of dollars in public health care cuts expected in the new year. Muskoka nurse Pat Ledan says that, “We don’t ever want to be as they are in the States, where we have to empty our pockets and sell our homes to pay for a surgery.” Ontario Nurses’ Association VP Andy Summers says that “we’ve got real cuts to dollars every single year, we’ve got real nurses being laid off, real programs being closed, and now we’re having real hospitals being closed. So this is evidence.”
November 22: Sarnia-Lambton and Chatham-Kent were among the communities that travelled to Toronto to attend a protest at Queen’s Park (Sarnia Observer, November 22, 2014.) Local OHC organizer Shirley Roebuck says “we had some very stalwart proponents of public healthcare” attend the rally to protest cuts of services and increases to health care privatization. The Ontario Health Coalition-led rally was supported by the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Unifor members, and all spoke of the importance of keeping community hospitals and local health care services in place.
November 22: Ontario’s health care system is hurting from thousands of cuts as government pursues an “austerity” budget, protestors say (Toronto Sun, November 22, 2014.) The Ontario Health Coalition arranged a rally at Queen’s Park that attracted hundreds, who demanded a rollback of corporate tax cuts and greater investment in hospital and community care. There was significant support from the leadership of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Ontario Federation of Labour at the rally. Nurses complained that services are quietly being cut out of hospitals, along with nursing positions. NDP MPP Cindy Forster noted that the flatlining of hospital funding for the past three years has led to longer lineups in ERs and a backup of ambulance services. She also says the Liberal claims of services being moved into the community are false.
November 21: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that about 100 members will join a rally to protest private clinics today at Queen’s Park (CFTR AM, November 21, 2014.)
November 21: Midland and Penetanguishene residents joined a protest against hospital cuts at Queen’s Park on Friday (Midland Mirror, November 21, 2014.) Residents spoke about the closure of the Penetanguishene site of Georgian Bay General Hospital and what it means to the community; the protestors arrived from 15 communities. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna told the crowd that Ontario hospitals have cut more than 1,700 RN jobs. The head of the CLC, Hassan Yusseff, said that fighting for quality health care is not an easy fight, but it is worthwhile. The protestors later marched down University Avenue and back, chanting “health care for everyone.”
November 21: On Friday, the Ontario Health Coalition called on the provincial government to stop funding cuts to health care and to stop increasing privatization (Queen’s Park Briefing, November 21, 2014.) The group organized a rally at Queen’s Park that was attended by hundreds of protestors. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna spoke at the rally, and encouraged attendees to go home and tell one person about Ontario’s frozen hospital budgets and the fees being charged by private clinics. “Tell them that we are losing our health care system and we have to fight for it,” she said. NDP MPPs Jennifer French, Cindy Forster and Monique Taylor told those at the rally that health care workers can count on them in the house to stop cuts to health services and protect Ontario’s public health care system.
November 17: RNs and health workers will gather in Toronto for a convention expected to focus “on the squeeze on health care spending and its impact on the profession (Queen’s Park Briefing, November 17, 2014.) Members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association will attend the 2014 Biennial Convention, and those still in town on Friday will attend a Queen’s Park protest to stop the expansion of private clinics. Close to 1,000 ONA members will meet at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel to hear updates on the work of their union and the state of the health care sector. In September, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that more than 1,600 RN positions have been cut due to flatlined hospital budgets. “Patients deserve better,” she said in September. “Ontarians have lost millions of hours of RN care from their hospitals in the past two years…”
November 21: An opinion editorial in the Windsor Star (November 21, 2014) says that the Erie-St. Clair CCAC is slashing services by one-third immediately, and too many patients are being “pawned off” on other agencies. The editorial profiles one patient who has been deemed to have “mild needs” by the agency – an 89-year-old woman who is paralyzed on one side after suffering four strokes in four years, is confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. The piece says that “you can’t just say we’re cutting your service. Good luck. You can’t just throw a grenade in the room and run.” The piece asks where all the money went, as the CCAC had balanced budgets for the last two years, received $3 million more from the government and now has a $5-million deficit. The executive director’s salary jumped to almost $221,000 from less than $161,000 so “clearly there is money for some things.” The piece also notes that Health Minister Eric Hoskins told delegates to the Ontario Nurses’ Association convention that home and community care are the “cornerstones” of the new health care system. He didn’t mention what’s happening in Windsor, or report cuts in Toronto and Ottawa.
November 18: Local Tory MPP Jim McDonell has lambasted the “poor spending practices” of the provincial government as the Liberals released their fall economic statement (Seaway News, November 18, 2014.) He says the $11 billion a year in interest being paid by the government is not sustainable, and that future generations may enjoy less access to or lower quality services as a result. “Locally,” says McDonell, “this means cuts to home care and nurses, as pointed out by the President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.” The MPP called for the government to “contain the growth of Ontario’s public sector, reduce the regulatory and fiscal burden on businesses…” and tackle jobs for young Ontarians.
November 19: Health Minister Eric Hoskins has called on the Ontario Nurses’ Association to “stand shoulder to shoulder with the provincial government” as it tries to transform health care (Queen’s Park Update, November 19, 2014.) He briefly addressed members of ONA at their biennial conference, telling nurses that there’s still work to be done in improving health care in the province, and that he will fight for them so they can continue their pivotal role in the system. The government’s freeze to hospital funding has resulted in nurses across Ontario protesting heavy workload and fighting the cuts of 1,600 RN positions. Haslam-Stroud did laud Hoskins’ efforts in targeting issues such as the development of an Ebola strategy.
November 19: Bob Hepburn’s Toronto Star column (November 19, 2014) says that in an “upbeat” speech to about 1,000 Ontario nurses, Health Minister Eric Hoskins boasted of how home and community care are the “cornerstones” of a major health system transformation that is underway. He told delegates at the Ontario Nurses’ Association convention that one of his top priorities is to redesign home and community care. His remarks were greeted with more than a few groans from delegates at the back of the room, writes Hepburn. Nurses are furious with a fresh wave of cuts in home and community care services by CCACs. It’s a disturbing trend that Hoskins avoided mentioning in his speech, writes Hepburn. Hoskins refuses to concede that anyone has been affected by the cuts, despite detailed media reports of patients with serious health conditions are being cut off. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has written, in a letter to the editor, that care coordinators know that cutting this much home care will result in a great deal of patient suffering – she wrote the letter to the Windsor Star after the Erie-St. Clair CCAC announced plans to cut 33 per cent of its services to “mild needs” patients. He notes that patients are being told that they need to start paying their own money for private care. Interestingly, Hepburn notes that as services are being cut, the wages for the top CCAC employees are rising at Erie-St. Clair. The salary of the CEO there has risen 37 per cent over five years. Either Hoskins is unaware of the trends or has decided to remain quiet, writes Hepburn. He notes that Hoskins inherited the portfolio’s mess, but regrettably, the trend is continuing and may even be escalating. As Haslam-Stroud writes in her letter, care coordinators are being forced to cut home care that provides the vital care, with dignity and safety, that patients deserve. Hepburn asks whether this is the legacy that Hoskins wants to leave, or the legacy that Ontarians deserve.
November 18: A letter to the editor of the Windsor Star (November 18, 2014) from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that care coordinators at the Erie-St. Clair CCAC have used words such as “appalled, disgusted and horrified” to describe how they feel following the news that 33 per cent of the home care services they provide will be cut. Care coordinators know that cutting this much home care will result in a great deal of patient suffering. The care coordinators have been pleading the case for their patients, appalled at having to discontinue services at home for the patients who so desperately need it. These patients face a loss of dignity, and more worrisome, a loss of safety as they are forced to travel to CCAC clinics for care. The cuts will force cancer patients with multiple health problems to travel to clinics, which is clearly inappropriate and not aligned with safe care provision. Haslam-Stroud writes that CEO Lori Marshall should be apologizing to Star readers, not reassuring them.
November 13: With flu season coming, the nurses who help Londoners fight it off are “inching closer to walking off the job” (CTV Two London, November 13, 2014.) Middlesex-London public health nurses may strike anytime after midnight if a deal is not reached. Negotiations are continuing; the nurses have been working without a contract since March. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says these nurses are paid less than those in neighbouring communities and are being offered a deal that fails to even keep up with inflation. An ONA representative says that progress is being made and there could be an announcement early tomorrow.
November 13: It’s “business as usual at Middlesex-London Health Unit today now that a strike has been averted” (CBC News Windsor, November 13, 2014.) Public health nurses reached a tentative agreement just minutes before the legal strike deadline. Ontario Nurses’ Association Vicki McKenna said yesterday that wages and benefits were the main issues in the dispute. The nurses voluntarily accepted a two-year wage freeze in 2010 and 2011, and were seeking a cost-of-living increase this time.
November 13: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the public health nurses at Middlesex-London Health Unit will meet at five o’clock to review the tentative settlement and they “will vote tonight” (CFPL AM, November 13, 2014.) The deal was reached minutes before the legal strike deadline. Negotiations between the two sides had been going on since last May. McKenna says the board itself will be meeting on the 20th to review the settlement and vote on ratification.
November 13: Wages and benefits were the main issues in long negotiations between the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Ontario Nurses’ Association (CFPL AM, November 13, 2014.) The two sides reached a deal last night, and ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the nurses will vote on it tonight. Aside from administering flu vaccines, public health nurses are responsible for a host of other services, including parenting and prenatal classes, new baby home visits, and sexual health services and clinics.
November 13: There is relief among public health nurses in London after a tentative agreement was reached on a new contract (CFPL AM, November 13, 2014.) The Middlesex-London Health Unit and Ontario Nurses’ Association reached a deal just minutes before the legal strike deadline. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the deal “wasn’t certainly everything that the public health nurses were looking to achieve, but there were some steps forward.” The Health Unit is expected to ratify the agreement at a meeting on November 20th.
November 13: The Ontario Nurses’ Association and public health nurses working at the Middlesex-London Health Unit have reached a last-minute deal before a looming strike deadline (Queen’s Park Briefing, November 13, 2014.) The agreement, confidential until ratified, comes after close to six months of negotiations; the nurses have worked without a contract since March. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that the 158 public health nurses were hoping to avoid a strike. “Our nurses are central to the Middlesex-London regions remaining healthy,” she said. “The last thing any nurse would want to be forced to do is withdraw their services and the care that our communities rely on.” The nurses were seeking “nominal” wage increases after having their salaries frozen for two years. Even though health care spending has hit a record $50 billion, the system is still under “big financial pressure…”
November 10: A report from WGBH News (November 10, 2014) says that Toronto health care workers are being reminded of the SARS outbreak as they observe the U.S. Ebola experience, in which health care workers are contracting the virus. Brian Mann of U.S. National Public Radio travelled to Toronto during SARS and interviewed many health care workers. More than 400 people were sickened by SARS and 44 died. At that time, Mann interviewed ONA member Susan Sorrenti, an emergency room and ICU nurse at Mount Sinai hospital who nearly died. Watching the nurses be sickened by Ebola in Dallas has brought out Sorrenti’s empathy. “If I was a nurse working in that environment, I would have wanted to know, why aren’t we protecting ourselves,” she said. She says that when SARS struck, Toronto nurses lacked basic equipment and training. She knew something was badly wrong when EMS arrived with a SARS patient and the ambulance crews were wearing full isolation gear. About half of those who contracted SARS were health care workers. Andy Summers, an RN and member of the Ontario Nurses’ Association board, says that at the time, “I don’t think we really thought that something like this could have happened, not here in this advanced medical world that we were living in.” He says that one of the biggest lessons from SARS that should have been learned was that health care workers must be protected. “We do not want to be part of this problem,” he said. “With SARS, we found out that we were part of the problem. We were not safe, we got infected.” Sorrenti says that to be Ebola-ready, nurses must demand better equipment, training and working conditions before treating patients.
November 14: Both the Ontario Nurses’ Association and an individual have filed grievances against the Brockville Mental Health Centre in connection with an October 10 stabbing of a nurse (Brockville Recorder & Times, November 14, 2014.) The Royal Ottawa Health Group’s senior VP, Cal Crocker, confirmed the notices filed regarding the attack in which the nurse was stabbed multiple times in the throat by a patient. Crocker says that due to privacy concerns, he cannot discuss the specifics. The attack shook up the nurses and administrative staff, with many questioning their own safety and the protocol of releasing dangerous patients from restraints. The Ontario Ministry of Labour is also investigating the complaint, and it has issued four workplace orders.
November 14: A group of citizens and labour leaders is aiming to revive the Hamilton Health Coalition (Hamilton Spectator, November 14, 2014.) On Thursday, Natalie Mehra – executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition – helped the group announce the revitalization of the local chapter. Mehra says that unless people stand up, “there’s no one else” to stop the assault on medicare. Hamilton Health Sciences is looking to cut $25 million from its budget this year. At a meeting at Steelworkers Hall yesterday, Mehra was joined by Dianne Leclair, regional VP of ONA, United Steel Workers Local 1005 president Rolf Gerstenberger, and a McMaster University physician, Gordon Guyatt, who also works with Canadian Doctors for Medicare. Leclair noted that “people take health care for granted, unless it’s an urgent issue like a hospital closing. Right now, health care is being siphoned away. We need to get people involved now.” Leclair says that more than 1,500 RN jobs were chopped in 2012, which ONA estimates is the loss of millions of hours of care.
November 12: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the public health nurses at Middlesex-London Public Health are not “asking for the moon” in their negotiations (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, November 12, 2014.) The nurses are looking for reasonable recognition of the work they do, she said, adding that “if the public health administrators can award themselves increases, they said, well, you know we’re the ones on the ground, we’re the worker bees, so what about us?” McKenna says that non-unionized workers at the health unit have been given raises in recent years of as much as 26 per cent, while the nurses’ salaries were frozen at zero for two years.
November 14: London Community News (November 14, 2014) reports that the ramifications of an announcement by the Middlesex-London Health Unit could “go a long way towards better health in the London-Middlesex Region.” Just half an hour before a legal strike deadline, a tentative agreement was reached with the Ontario Nurses’ Association public health unit nurses. The more than 150 nurses administer flu vaccines, work in infectious disease services, provide parenting and prenatal classes, sexual health services and more.
November 13: A tentative agreement was reached late Wednesday night between the Ontario Nurses’ Association and Middlesex-London Health Unit (London Free Press, November 13, 2014.) The deal means no disruption in services, says a spokesman for the Health Unit. Ontario Nurses’ Association VP Vicki McKenna said earlier in the day that the two sides were “not that far apart” and she remained hopeful that a deal could be reached to avert a job action. McKenna said that “when a crisis strikes…they [nurses] jump to action…”
November 12: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that she thinks that public health nurses and their employer – the Middlesex-London Health Unit – could be close to reaching a new deal and avoiding a strike (CFPL AM, November 12, 2014.) The nurses have been trying to reach a new contract since May. If the nurses strike, the health unit has given approval for doctors and pharmacies to double their orders for flu vaccines. The nurses, members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, provide many services to the community.
November 12: CKLO Radio London (November 12, 2014) reports that 158 public health nurses could be on strike if they don’t reach an agreement with the Middlesex-London Health Unit. The nurses have been negotiating since May and without a contract since March. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the services the nurses provide will be impacted if no deal is reached. Wage and benefits are the main issues.
November 12: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the public health nurses working for Middlesex-London Health Unit are looking for a nominal wage increase (CBC London, November 12, 2014.) “This is about cost of living and they’ve been falling and falling behind over a number of years with…their wages frozen, and it’s time to change that,” said McKenna. The Health Unit employs 158 public health nurses who operate clinics for immunization, birth control, healthy baby programs, and more. The nurses voluntarily accepted a two-year wage freeze. McKenna adds that the nurses are very disrespected by the administration of the health unit – other non-unionized employees have received salary increases in recent years of up to 26 per cent.
November 13: Though talks came “down to the wire,” there is a tentative agreement between the public health nurses and Middlesex-London Health Unit (Blackburn Radio, November 13, 2014.) After months of negotiations between ONA and the employer, the 150 nurses will not be on strike today. The nurses had been without a contract since March.
November 12: The “clock is ticking” for about 150 public health nurses in London (CTV News London, November 12, 2014.) The public health nurses could be on strike as of midnight as negotiations continue between the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the Middlesex-London Health Unit. Talks began last May, with the main issues being benefits and pay.
November 12: London officials are telling pharmacists and doctors to stockpile flu vaccines and ignore provincial rules that nurses say protect people from getting a spoiled dose (London Free Press, November 12, 2014.) Government limits doctors and pharmacists to a one-month supply of the vaccine because they may not be able to safely store large quantities without risking spoilage. Public health officials, however, have okayed local doctors and pharmacists ordering twice that amount. Phil Sarides, an Ontario Nurses’ Association labour relations officer, says that public health nurses are very concerned. “The vaccines may be ineffective.” Medical officer of health for London and Middlesex County Christopher Mackie, however, says that where public health nurses see risk, he sees a balance between following rules and preparing for a strike that he fears could disrupt vaccine shipments. The nurses could be on strike or locked out as of tomorrow, on picket lines at the health unit’s main building, and he says that other union activists who are more “militant” then nurses about what they allow through may join the picket lines. Public health nurses who spoke to the Free Press on condition of anonymity say that something less noble is at play – intimidation. They say the message to nurses seems to be to agree with the management contract offer or face a lockout or strike that could drag on through the winter. Talks between them began last May; both sides agree that a strike or lockout would result in service cuts.
November 10: Expanding the scope of practice of RNs is one of the recommendations to address the chronic problem of recruitment and retention in remote, rural and underserved parts of the province (Sudbury Star, November 10, 2014.) David McNeil, co-chair of the RNAO’s task force to address the shortage, is bringing together front-line RNs, policy makers, researchers and administrators to generate solutions. Members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, the Association of Ontario Health Centre, Health Canada, the OHA, the Aboriginal Nurses Association and others are participating. The supply of nurses rises and falls; currently, there is a relatively good supply. The task force is now encouraging more residents or rural and remote areas – particularly those with aboriginal populations – to consider nursing as a career. There are significant health and cultural issues in aboriginal communities that could be better addressed by community members.
November 8: The Erie-St. Clair CCAC is cutting the number of daily nursing visits it makes by one-third to cope with a $5-million deficit (Windsor Star, November 8, 2014). Many patients receiving care will lose their support and officials with the agency say they will work with local agencies to replace that care, though some patients may end up paying out of pocket. Ontario Nurses’ Association First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the care coordinators working for the CCAC are very concerned about the impact on their patients. “They really feel pressured to reduce service when they don’t feel it’s the right thing to do,” she said. Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj says the cuts may force the hospital to keep patients longer than it does now because doctors are not confident their patients will receive the care they need at home. Erie-St. Clair CCAC CEO Lori Marshall, however, says the changes are part of a strategy to redirect spending away from mild-needs patients towards the most complex, high-needs patients. She says she plans for more patients to travel to CCAC clinics, rather than wait at home for a nurse to visit.
November 14: A letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator (November 14, 2014) from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that many Ontarians are needlessly alarmed by news of a potential Ebola patient. Haslam-Stroud, in her role as President of ONA, reassures readers that they need not worry about Ebola readiness. ONA members are all too aware of the risks to the public, patients and themselves because of their SARS experience. This time, the government has been willing to listen to the front-line nurses, their concerns and recommendations, and ONA has ensured that health care workers are equipped, trained, drilled and tested in order to safely care for an Ebola patient. Nurses will be safe and able to focus on caring for patients. Haslam-Stroud writes that as President of the country’s largest nurses’ union, she is proud of the professionalism and care provided by front-line RNs and allied health professionals, who are committed to being at their patients’ sides when needed.
November 12: Windsor Regional Hospital already has 300 protective suits it acquired to work with in possible post-911 chemical and biological attacks, and the hospital has also ordered 400 more suits in case of an Ebola patient (Windsor Star, November 12, 2014). Nurses who are part of a core group designated to care for an Ebola patient were trained yesterday in how to safely don and doff the Tyvek suits. ER nurse Andre Dafesh says that while he felt warm in the suit, he also felt safe. The nurses will don the Tyvek suit, rubber gloves, booties, a hood, face shield and surgical mask, with every seam covered in duct tape. The hospital has enough of the protective suits for a core group of 24 staff to care for a patient for up to 96 hours; Windsor Regional is not one of the designated Ebola care facilities. Staff was also trained on how to use a powered air purifying respiratory mask and breathing apparatus with a HEPA filter – they may be required to intubate or perform other procedures that could result in an aerosol transmission. [Note: Windsor Regional ONA members note that the “surgical mask” is an N95 respirator]
November 5: Ontario nurses are protesting changes at long-term care homes in Hamilton and Burlington that will result in job cuts (Queen’s Park Briefing, November 5, 2014.) Members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association working for St. Olga’s LifeCare Centre and Cama Woodlands long-term care homes held information pickets in Hamilton and Burlington this week. The new nursing schedule would cut by half the number of RNs responsible for caring for residents at the new 128-bed facility, leaving the health care of the frail, elderly residents at risk. The report notes that the provincial government is “squeezing the health sector hard” and forcing hospitals, LTC homes and others to find efficiencies to meet their budget targets.”
October 30: Health Sciences North hosted a public forum at the Steelworkers’ Hall on the subject of home health care (CBC Radio 1 Sudbury, October 30, 2014.) The CBC accessed documents on the cost of such PR efforts through Freedom of Information requests; they show that the hospital spent $48,000 on hosting five evening events. The CBC also found that the hospital spent $15,00o on a promotional video. Dan Lessard, spokesperson for the hospital, says that large corporations have “different pockets of money that are devoted to different things…” Nurse Kelly Latimer of the Ontario Nurses’ Association bargaining unit says that her members are anxious about the hospital’s budget because there’s a lot of talk about belt tightening right now. “…When anybody talks about a balanced budget with no increases in funding, everybody always thinks that there’s going to be layoffs,” she said. “We’ve been asked by our managers how we could save money on our unit, on individual units, and how we could come up with money to have savings within their budgets to try to come to a balanced budget.”
November 1: Nurses at the Guelph Community Health Centre want the community to know about their concerns with workload and wages (CIMJ FM, November 1, 2014.) Eight NPs and one RN held an information picket to raise awareness of the care they provide. Dianne Leclair, Regional VP for the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says the nurses are trying to negotiate their collective agreement and are seeking to be paid on par with their colleagues elsewhere in the province. The employer is offering them zero per cent increases for the next three and a half years, says Leclair. Management and physicians have received wage increases, however.
November 3: A group of Guelph nurses is turning to the community for support (CKCO TV, November 3, 2014.) Nurse practitioners and an RN with the Guelph CHC are in contract negotiations and say that if they don’t reach an agreement, they are prepared to strike. The nurses say wages are a key issue, as they are paid significantly less than their colleagues in the area. The nurses held an information picket to look for community support as they prepare for another round of negotiations. The NPs care for very vulnerable clients and face very challenging work environments.
November 1: A group of nurses who work for Guelph’s Community Health Centre took to the streets as they prepare for a second round of negotiations (CTV Kitchener, November 1, 2014.) The eight nurse practitioners say they are paid 20 per cent less than colleagues working in different locations, and are they are seeking a 1.4 per cent increase. Liz Hales says that wouldn’t bring the NPs up to where they should be in terms of compensation. CHC executive director David Thornley says the organization has been lobbying at the provincial level to address the wage difference. Nurses say they are prepared to strike if an agreement can’t be reached.
November 1: A letter to the editor of the London Free Press (November 1, 2014) says that that Dr. Christopher Mackie’s comment that public health agencies don’t have endless dollars to fight Ebola is incorrect. Philip Sarides writes that under the Ontario Occupation Health and Safety Act, employers must take every measure necessary to ensure workers, including nurses facing Ebola, are kept safe irrespective of cost. Nurses at the Middlesex-London Public Health Unit are the lowest paid of 31 health units in Ontario, work many unpaid hours of overtime, and would be on the front lines of any pandemic. Sarides writes that the nurses have been without a contract since April and while the nurses don’t want to strike, if they accept the offer given to them they’d be the lowest-paid in the province. Dr. Mackie and many managers have received wage increases of more than 10 per cent in one year; nurses face more risks and save more lives during their careers than many other professionals, and they deserve a fair contract.
November 3: Guelph Community Health Care nurse practitioners have gone public, holding an information picket to explain “contract labour pains” (Guelph Mercury, November 3, 2014). The nurses were supported by some of their patients, including the mother of a two-year-old boy in a wheelchair, who has been receiving care since 2002. She says the NPs have become like her family. Liz Hales says the NPs are not on strike, but rather informing the public about what they do and what they’re discussing with their employer. Hales is an NP at the clinic and the Bargaining Unit President for the Ontario Nurses’ Association members. The CHC has eight NPs and an RN working with about 600 patients; ONA VP Dianne Leclair said the Guelph CHC nurses are being paid about $5 to $10 less per hour than other NPs in the area. CHC executive director David Thornley says that wage increases will be “guided by the principle of equity for all staff.” The two sides will meet for a second day of conciliation on November 6.
November 5: A letter to the editor of the Kingston Whig-Standard (November 5, 2014) from ONA Vice-President Anne Clark says that suspected Ebola cases have unnecessarily alarmed many people in communities across Ontario. Clark assures the community that they do not need to worry about Ebola readiness, as ONA has ensured preparedness is different this time than it was during SARS. This time, she writes, the government was willing to listen to the front-line nurses; there are commitments to provide workers with the proper personal protective equipment, train, test and drill them to handle a potential Ebola patient. This will keep nurses safe and able to focus on patient care. Kingston-area residents can rest assured that ONA is diligently working to ensure our RNs are ready and protected and able to provide the care patients need.
November 3: An opinion editorial in Healthy Debate (November 3, 2014) by ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that she can unreservedly state that RNs will be there to care for Ebola patients should we ever be faced with that prospect – with the appropriate protocols, personal protective equipment, training, testing and drilling in place. RNs have a limited right to refuse unsafe work under the Occupational Health & Safety Act. However, Haslam-Stroud writes that “it’s our job” to care for patients. Ontario nurses are particularly aware of the need for PPE following the SARS outbreak that saw chaotic communication and woeful ignorance of infection control on the part of hospital management. She writes that the outstanding work of Justice Archie Campbell post-SARS gave ONA what it needed to advocate for the precautionary principle, and the union has raised the alarm about Ebola preparedness for months. The provincial government met with ONA and others and has now detailed exactly what is needed to prevent a repeat of SARS. ONA is determined to ensure that RNs will not be put into unsafe situations, as they were during SARS. ONA is working with dedication and a “commitment to our members’ safety to enable RNs in this province to provide that care without concern about their personal safety or having to refuse unsafe work.”
October 30: ONA members working at the Guelph Community Health Centre will hold an information picket on Saturday to inform the community about the care they deliver and the need for reduced workloads and appropriate compensation (QP Briefing, October 30, 2014.)
October 30: According to documents obtained by CBC News, Health Sciences North spends thousands of dollars on marketing activities including a $24,000 magazine, and a series of public forums with guest speakers and refreshments (October 30, 2014.) A spokesman from the hospital explains that these are not marketing expenses but community engagement. Kelly Latimer, the ONA Bargaining Unit President at Health Sciences North, says she is not sure whether those funds could be diverted to support front-line care but adds that nurses have been asked for cost-saving suggestions to help balance the hospital’s budget.
October 28: PC MPP Jim Wilson is asking how many Ontarians are being refused care by their local CCAC (NorthumberlandView.ca, October 28, 2014.) Wilson used the story of an Ottawa man who has been refused services by his CCAC to illustrate his point. He also noted that ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has said the government has cut 1,600 RN positions, and that the Timmins and District Hospital will soon cut 40 nursing positions, a growing trend across the province.
October 28: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is fighting policies in some Ontario hospitals that force RNs to either have a flu vaccine or wear a mask (Broadcast News, October 28, 2014.) Meanwhile, provincial health minister Eric Hoskins says that the province has no plans to mandate flu vaccination for health-care workers in Ontario. He notes that a number of hospitals are already seeing a high vaccination rate among staff.
October 25: ONA is one step closer to a new contract agreement for nurses working in for-profit nursing homes (CFOS AM, October 25, 2014.) ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that an arbitration board which heard from both the for-profit nursing home owners and ONA will likely release a two-year agreement for the nurses. She hopes the arbitration award will be released early in 2015; the nurses have been without a contract since March of this year. McKenna adds that nursing home owners want to remove all RNs, believing the work can be done by minimally qualified workers.
October 23: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is warning that 15 RN jobs will be lost when Leamington District Memorial Hospital closes its obstetrics unit (Queen’s Park Briefing, October 23, 2014.) The union says the hospital board ignored a local petition to keep the unit open and “again, we are seeing health care decisions driven by dollars, not our patients’ needs,” according to President Linda Haslam-Stroud. She notes that patients will have to travel to Windsor for services. “ONA has been raising the alarm about the underfunding of hospitals for four years now,” said Haslam-Stroud. “While the intention may be to send more care into the community, depriving our hospitals of much-needed funding to provide services is untenable.”
October 25: Two days of arbitration have wrapped up for 3,000 ONA members working in 168 for-profit nursing homes (CFOS, October 25, 2014.) ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that it is now up to the three-member arbitration board to decide on a new contract agreement and that could take several months. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that talks between the two sides ended in late September over the employers’ demand to reduce staffing at the facilities. She says that shareholder profit is top of mind for the nursing home owners.
October 23: Leamington District Memorial Hospital’s decision to close its obstetrics unit means that more than one dozen RN jobs are “on the line” (CKLW AM, October 23, 2014.) ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the news of the closure and RN cuts is disappointing, both for the nurses but also for the community. McKenna says that smaller communities throughout the province are “seeming to be facing decisions about what services do we cut, because they haven’t received the funding that they believe that they need in order to operate the services…” She says that about 15 RN jobs at Leamington will be on the line. The nurses will have to decide whether to remain living in the community. Hospital budgets aren’t even keeping pace with inflation, says McKenna, and she believes the government really needs to take a hard look at the fact that there is nothing left for hospitals to cut. She says that ONA is urging people to really talk to their MPPs about this.
October 31: In a letter to the editor of the Toronto Star, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud reassures Torontonians that ONA members working in the city’s designated Ebola treatment centres are ready to give the safest care to patients (October 31, 2014.) ONA continues advocating to ensure that health-care workers are “equipped with the proper personal protective equipment, trained, tested and drilled to handle a potential Ebola patient” so that they can stay safe and focused on patient care.
October 23: Susan Prettejohn is hoping to win reelection to the Elizabethtown-Kirley Township council (Brockville Recorder & Times, October 23, 2014.) The registered nurse is running for a third term because she likes “being part of a community and giving back to the community.” During her nursing career, Prettejohn worked at Kemptville District Hospital and was also actively involved in the Ontario Nurses’ Association. She says her ONA experience is “proof of how she likes to help people.”
October 22: Arbitration hearings are getting underway for Ontario’s 168 for-profit nursing homes and the 3,000 Ontario Nurses’ Association members who work in them (Bayshore Broadcasting, October 22, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that mediation between her group and negotiators for the homes ended in late September over the employers’ demand to reduce staffing. Haslam-Stroud says that cuts would come as new patients arrive at long-term care facilities with more chronic illnesses and higher care needs than ever before.
October 23: The Ontario Nurses’ Association expects to file a grievance in response to the stabbing of one of its RN members at the Brockville Mental Health Centre (Brockville Recorder & Times, October 23, 2014.) ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that violence against nurses has increased at a range of health care facilities and “it can’t be left alone to solve itself. We are more than concerned about the situation in Brockville.” The Ministry of Labour has written a series of orders against the facility. McKenna says that part of the problem is the number of staff working in the unit and the “way patients are classified.” In addition, the layout of rooms and units, availability of training, supplies and safeguards can also impact responses to violent incidents. The nurse was repeatedly stabbed in the throat by a patient in the forensic treatment unit. She has since been released from hospital to continue to recover at home.
October: ONA Health & Safety expert Nancy Johnson has co-authored a piece on health care workplace safety with Linda Silas and Kate Rexe (Longwoods). The article explores the lessons of SARS and the ability of Canada’s health system to respond to a crisis. The three note that during SARS, Canada’s health system was not prepared to quickly and efficiently deal with a health emergency, especially in Toronto; post-SARS, the country actively engaged in plans to prepare for a future pandemic. The authors are still calling for the adoption of the precautionary principle, and say this will ensure adequate staffing. They encourage communications, building alliances and making emergency preparedness a priority.
October 24: Collingwood’s General and Marine Hospital is now implementing its Ebola screening process, asking those visiting the ER about travel history (Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, October 24, 2014). The hospital has four negative pressure rooms to handle a case of Ebola, though Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health for the South Muskoka District Health Unit, says that Ebola is not airborne so the negative pressure rooms are not necessary. Nurses’ unions have been vocal about the lack of Ebola preparedness in Canadian hospitals. In response to their concerns, the provincial health minister has announced that he will ensure that nurses and health care workers “have the maximum protection possible.”
October 17: ONA is encouraged by plans announced by Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins to protect nurses during a possible Ebola outbreak (Nurses Newsline, October 17, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that using occupational health and safety standards to guide the work of the government is a positive step. She noted that the late Justice Archie Campbell recommended the precautionary principle be used in our health care facilities to provide safe work environments for health care workers. Haslam-Stroud says ONA is committed to working with employers to avoid repeating the mistakes that were made in a Dallas hospital.
October 21: A commentary on the Rick Mercer Report (CBC, October 21, 2014) says that nurses deserve our support because they’re always there for us. Mercer said that “when SARS happened, when the city of Toronto was bathing in Purell, the nurses went to work every day. And when they got sick, other nurses, they replaced them. And now, now we have this terrible thing, Ebola. It has yet to and perhaps never will reach our shores. But if it does, we know what will happen. We will run for the hills, they will run into the room. So let us take a moment and praise the nurses. And let it be known that in this country, in Canada, no nurse should be denied the equipment or training they need to do their job safely.”
October 21: Officials at Windsor Regional Hospital are preparing for Ebola by taking a level of precaution “not seen since the SARS crisis” (Windsor Star, October 21, 2014.) The hospital’s chief executive and chief nursing executive say the hospital has been engaged in preparations since mid-summer. There is a core group of 20 to 30 staff members who will be trained in the correct use of the protective gear at each of the hospital’s two ERs. The hospital has 150 of the full-body suits at its Ouellette campus and 200 at the Met campus.
October 20: The CBC’s Dr. Brian’s Blog (October 20, 2014) discusses whether health care workers have the right to refuse to treat Ebola patients. Last week, a number of nursing organizations raised concerns across the country about nurses lacking the proper protective equipment and training to safely care for Ebola patients. In Alberta, Health Services told nurses that if they refuse to treat a patient with Ebola, they could face disciplinary action. Quebec nurses are also concerned. Nurses would spend the most time in close, repeated contact with these patients; in 2010, the Ontario Nurses’ Association provided members with a paper that says provincial legislation gives health care workers a limited right to refuse unsafe work without fear of reprisal, provided there are circumstances where the worker has reason to believe there is danger. An example is the right to refuse work with any equipment or device that is likely to endanger them or the patient. The ONA report says that there was at least one case during SARS of a nurse exercising her right to refuse work; she would not care for a SARS patient until taught to safely don her N95 respirator. Dr. Brian writes that he hopes the new upgraded Ebola protocols and safety measures work. In his opinion, the “more uncertain authorities are about the effectiveness of methods of protecting health care workers, the less right they have to demand that health care workers care for Ebola patients.”
October 20: The federal government has announced that it will not send any more experts to help contain Ebola without a guarantee that they can be medically evacuated if they fall ill (CBC News, October 20, 2014.) In other developments, the CFNU says it has met with officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada about updated safety guidelines for treating Ebola patients. Linda Silas says the guidelines fall short in areas such as the quality of the masks available to nurses. She is also calling for public education and preparedness test drills.
October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that it had a lot of concerns about Ebola preparedness and protection of health care workers, but following the announcement by the Minister of Health regarding enhanced protocols, things are a bit better (CFRT AM, October 17, 2014.) ONA now says it is absolutely reassured “that we have an open door and open telephone line with the minister directly, that he listens to us and he responds quickly.” Among the enhancements are new rules that two nurses will, at all times, be providing care to each Ebola patient and not providing care for anyone else. Personal protective equipment will also be enhanced for caregivers.
October 17: While the risk is very low, Ebola virus concerns are “very high” for Ontario’s nurses, doctors and other health care workers (CBC Radio 1 Toronto & Windsor, October 17, 2014.) Now, Health Minister Eric Hoskins has moved to relieve fears in the health-care sector by announcing enhanced preparations. The Ontario Nurses’ Association has reacted to Hoskins’ announcement in a statement. ONA says that it is encouraged by the minister’s plan to keep health care workers safe.
October 17: The provincial government is stepping up its efforts to contain and treat potential cases of Ebola virus (CFMJ AM, October 17, 2014.) Following an announcement of enhanced procedures and new protective equipment and training requirements, the Ontario Nurses' Association released a statement saying that it is encouraged and pleased with the measures.
October 17: A directive from Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has been sent to hospitals and other acute care settings that will expand training, provide extra protective equipment and improve protocols for diagnosing and treating Ebola (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) Hoskins announced that hospitals will designate two nurses at all times to provide care to any confirmed Ebola patient, and those nurses will not be allowed to care for any other patients simultaneously.
October 18: The General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital is ramping up training and equipment after it was named as a provincial referral hospital for Ebola (ottawacitizen.com, October 18, 2014.) CHEO’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Lindy Samson, says the hospital is taking the designation seriously. Special teams will be set up and will receive intensive training. There are five designated spaces to isolate patients. The hospital also says that it has listened to the concerns of nurses who deal with a suspected case last week and has upgraded its safety equipment. Nurses said the equipment they were provided with left their skin exposed, and they felt that they were not properly trained.
October 17: The Ontario SARS commission, headed by then-Justice Archie Campbell, recommended a precautionary approach that errs on the side of caution to ensure a safe work environment (CP, October 17, 2014.) In the face of a potential case of Ebola virus, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the union is “pleased to hear that occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government.”
October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is pleased to hear that “occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud following the announcement of Ontario’s Ebola preparedness plan (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) She says the plan will keep patients and nurses – as well as the public – safe. The health ministry is also creating a special Ebola Command Table and an advisory table on Ebola preparedness.
October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that the strategy announced by the Ministry of Health to designate 10 Ontario hospitals as Ebola treatment centres worked during the SARS crisis (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) “The designated hospitals will provide special isolation units that are necessary to properly treat patients while keeping workers and the public safe,” said Linda Haslam-Stroud.
October 18: Housekeepers have called in the Ministry of Labour to investigate a lack of training and knowledge and the lack of proper protective equipment at McMaster Children’s Hospital – after the workers refused to clean the room of a possible Ebola patient (Hamilton Spectator, October 18, 2014.) Hamilton Health Sciences is one of 10 designated provincial hospitals to be named by the Minister of Health as Ebola centres. However, it was recently found to have fallen short in protecting its cleaning staff. CUPE’s chair of the health and safety committee said the situation was “pure chaos.” The MOL investigation led to five orders being written against the hospital. Two involved training staff and on how to properly use safety equipment. New measures announced by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health last Friday won praise from the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Ontario Medical Association and the Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario.
October 16: As Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, insisted that the province is more than ready to treat anyone with Ebola, but nurses are saying that they don’t feel prepared to handle the virus (CHML Hamilton, October 16, 2014.) CFNU President Linda Silas says the health care system needs to be faster. “We want to make sure that when the first patient walks through the door in Canada, we will be well prepared and we will be able to provide care for the patient and their family, but also protect our health care workers,” she said.
October 18: An opinion editorial (National Post, October 18, 2014) says that Ebola caught North America napping and it’s now clear that we have been “grotesquely over-confident.” The head of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Linda Silas, suggested that many hospitals are not prepared; nurses in hospitals that treated Ebola false alarms recently reported that they were not given the proper equipment to keep them safe. The piece asks if we have already forgotten SARS.
October 17: Healthcare workers at 13 Ontario hospitals were not prepared to care for Ebola cases, Ministry of Labour inspectors has found (Globe and Mail, October 17, 2014.) Among the issues are a lack of training, a lack of protective equipment and housekeepers who refused to clean the room of a suspected Ebola patient because they lacked training. The ministry has issued 50 compliance orders to 13 hospitals and one paramedic service since August. The orders back up claims from nursing leaders across the province that we are no better prepared for Ebola than their beleaguered counterparts in Dallas were. Just two hospitals – North York General and Lakeridge Health – passed the inspections.
October 16: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that we need to be better prepared to care for patients with Ebola (CKAT AM North Bay, October 16, 2014.) ONA says that that front-line health care workers need to be better prepared. RNAO head Doris Grinspun says that some nurses say that the only information they have received to date is through email.
October 17: The President of Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 83 says some nurses who deal with a false Ebola scare at the Ottawa Hospital are calling it a nightmare (CFRA AM, October 17, 2014.) Frances Smith says nurses were given protective equipment that left them exposed to possible infection at their necks and wrists.
October 18: Brantford General Hospital will hold a mock Ebola exercise to test the readiness of medical personnel to deal with the disease (Brantford Expositor, October 18, 2014.) The hospital has an Ebola readiness group. Meanwhile, the health minister has announced a provincial Ebola readiness plan. Earlier in the week, the Ontario Nurses’ Association sounded the alarm, saying that they don’t feel prepared to tackle the virus should Canada get a case.
October 17: Ontario nurses who were critical of government for being unprepared to deal with an Ebola patient say they’re satisfied with the more robust set of guidelines released Friday by the health ministry (Queen’s Park Briefing, October 17, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the union “is pleased to hear that occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government. The ministry will also provide the necessary funding for these measures to protect health care workers to the maximum extent possible. All of these components are critical for success.”
October 17: Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced an additional $30 million for international efforts for Ebola (CBC.CA News, October 17, 2014.) Meanwhile, in Ontario, the ministry announced that it is enhancing preparations to fight Ebola, including adding staff, designating 10 hospitals as referral centres and planning for two nurses to exclusively care for any Ebola patient in the province’s 10 designated hospitals. More protective equipment will be available for those caring for these patients. ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud says the “designated hospitals will provide special isolation units that are necessary to properly treat patients while keeping workers and the public safe.”
October 17: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud is concerned about the training that RNs at Belleville General Hospital have had (CJOJ, October 17, 2014.) She says the hospital and its nurses were not prepared for a potential Ebola patient. Haslam-Stroud also notes that there have been eight to 10 potential Ebola cases in hospitals across the province this fall. ONA has informed the ministers of health and labour of concerns.
October 18: London Health Sciences Centre has been designated as one of Ontario’s 10 Ebola treatment centres (London Free Press, October 18, 2014.) On Friday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins rolled out new measures to fight Ebola. There are strict protocols in place for donning and doffing protective equipment, detailed plans for the movement of potential Ebola patients through the hospital and care area, and for cleaning and handling waste. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is encouraged by the steps taken by Hoskins. ONA had been sharply critical of the lack of preparation, but the commitment that only those nurses that have been properly trained will handle potential Ebola patients is “a big step.”
October 16: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the union is hearing from its members that Ontario is not fully prepared for an Ebola case (CBC Radio 1 Toronto, October 16, 2014.) McKenna says ONA will meet with the ministers of health and labour about preparedness levels and protocols. ONA will discuss preparedness, equipment, training, drills, screening and communication with the government. She notes that Justice Archie Campbell was “very clear about the fault in communication lines and what happened during SARS and we should have learned that lesson well by now.” ONA also wants to see power air purifying respirators provided for nurses performing high-risk aerosol procedures.
October 17: Existing safety protocols for workers caring for Ebola patients is under scrutiny as health officials in the U.S. try to figure out how two nurses contracted the virus (Edmonton Journal, October 17, 2014.) Among other issues is whether the nurses in Dallas had proper protective equipment when they cared for an Ebola patient. The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders have developed relatively safe ways of caring for people. In Ottawa, ONA Local 83 president Frances Smith said the message she consistently received from nurses in her hospital who cared for a potential Ebola patient was “they didn’t feel that they were ready for this at all.”
October 16: Victoria Hospital’s growing psychiatric ward “put patients at risk” – until nurses persuaded officials to keep hiring more staff (St. Thomas-Times Journal, October 16, 2014.) The Ontario Nurses’ Association reported to members in its newsletter that “Nurses are filling out professional responsibility workload forms due to inadequate staffing and the ramifications for the safety of the staff and the patients on that unit.” ONA Local 100’s president said London Health Sciences Centre has been working to add enough staff to create an optimal environment for nurses and patients.
October 17: The Ottawa Citizen (October 17, 2014) reports that ONA Local 83 president Frances Smith says nurses’ experiences caring for a potential Ebola patient were frightening. Nurses were given protective equipment that left their necks and wrists exposed to infection. “We are nurses,” she said. “We look after patients in all kinds of circumstances that can be a little frightening. As long as we have appropriate protective equipment, we are able to do a lot of things. But if you don’t give us that, it makes it difficult to feel safe at work.” The Ottawa Hospital has listened to Smith’s concerns; while it started training sessions in August on how to don and doff protective equipment, it will hold further training and question-and-answer sessions. The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO have been designated by the Hospital Emergency Preparedness Committee to handle any area Ebola patients.
October 17: Some of the Ottawa and Vancouver nurses who cared for suspected Ebola patients over the Thanksgiving weekend described the experience as a “nightmare” because of a lack of training and inadequate education (Windsor Star, October 17, 2014.) Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 83 president Frances Smith said nurses were given protective equipment that left their necks and wrists exposed. Smith says the experience is a “wakeup call to everybody to look at what our processes are like and what the real concerns are for front-line staff.” Smith has shared the nurses’ concerns with hospital management and said the response has been positive.
October 15: The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions says that Ontario is not ready to “do battle with Ebola” and used information from the Ontario Nurses’ Association that showed gaps in safety to make their point (CHML AM, October 15, 2014.) Nurses and other workers say they’ve not been given adequate training to protect themselves.
October 15: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that in the front of every nurse’s mind is whether they are fully prepared to care for Ebola patients should that situation arise in Ontario (CBC Radio 1 London, October 15, 2014). She believes that we cannot assume anything when it comes to Ebola patients because it’s a new situation for North America – instead, we must err on the side of caution as Justice Archie Campbell recommended in his post-SARS report. She says the jury is still out on whether Ebola is transmissible through aerosolized droplets, and there is a need to equip nurses with powered air purifier respirators in some cases. Ebola does not spread through the air, but body fluids can become aerosolized when nurses are treating patients.
October 15: CBC Radio 1 (October 15, 2014) reports that Ottawa Hospital had a scare with a potential Ebola patient. Meanwhile, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province is not fully ready for Ebola yet. ONA is working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour to ensure nurses are kept safe. Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is also in close contact with the American nurses’ union, National Nurses, and has been discussing the issues they face in Dallas. Ontario is seeing some gaps here in safety and a lack of safety equipment for nurses. Nurses that would be in close proximity to patients will need proper equipment to protect them from body fluids that become aerosolized. Haslam-Stroud also noted that under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, “there is very limited grounds” for nurses to decline to care for an Ebola patient. On the other hand, she says that “nurses deal with infectious patients daily and do expect that the government and their employers will ensure nurses have a safe working environment.”
October 14: CBC News reports that the patient in an Ottawa hospital does not have Ebola virus (October 14, 2014.) A second suspected case remains in a Belleville hospital awaiting test results. Meanwhile, the head of the Ontario Nurses’ Association says that there remains some debate about whether the virus can travel through the air. Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “aerosol transmission has not been ruled out and this is the fundamental disagreement that we’re having right now with the government, and we’re working with the government to try to resolve it.”
October 15: The Globe and Mail (October 15, 2014) reports that a national nurses’ union is warning that their workers do not have enough training or equipment to safely treat Ebola patients. Linda Silas, head of the CFNU, wrote to Canada’s chief public health officer to highlight five instances in which unnamed Ontario hospitals “failed the Ebola readiness test.” Preparation has taken on a new urgency, says the report, since a Dallas nurse contracted the virus while caring for a patient. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she does not want to highlight “any area of the province that’s going to put fear in our patients. We are working with those employers, the government and our joint health and safety committees to ensure that they become Ebola ready. They should be now, but they’re not fully Ebola ready as we speak.” Silas says that it’s a good thing that the Public Health Agency of Canada is reacting quickly; there will be a meeting with nurses and other healthcare workers to ensure everyone is on the same page.
October 15: The London Free Press (October 15, 2014) reports that London nurses have forged an agreement that allows them to use respirators. James Murray, president of Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 100, says that, “Any nurse [here] has the right to choose their personal protective equipment.” He represents ONA members working for London Health Sciences Centre. Meanwhile, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has questioned public health officials in Toronto, asking why they backtracked from an assessment that Ebola might be spread through the air. On the union’s website is a statement that reads, “We are not confident that the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario, Ministry of Labour nor the Provincial Infectious Disease Advisory Committee are adequately holding health-care employers accountable to take every reasonable precaution to protect our members from this hazard.”
October 14: Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says that she fears the province is not ready to handle a real case of Ebola virus (Ottawa Citizen, October 14, 2014.) ONA is particularly concerned that nurses lack sufficient safety equipment to prevent them from contracting the virus, as a nurse in Dallas did last week. Haslam-Stroud urges that health facilities “err on the side of safety” when preparing for Ebola. The head of the CFNU, Linda Silas, says the nurse in Texas who contracted Ebola “really rang the alarm bells for us. This is very close to home.” She says that she has heard of equipment problems at hospitals with suspected cases. The CFNU subsequently contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada with its concerns. ONA is calling for drills to take place so that health care workers are assured the equipment works and they understand the protocols. While Ontario is in better shape than it was during the SARS outbreak, we’re still not fully prepared.
October 14: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that she doesn’t believe the Ontario health care system is “fully ready yet” to handle a case of Ebola virus (CBC Radio 1 Ottawa Morning, October 14, 2014). There is still some work to be done, but “we are working with both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health, and we’re looking forward to ensuring that our nurses are kept safe.” Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is in close liaison with the American nurses’ union, which is saying that they’ve not been adequately trained or equipped to protect themselves, their patients and their families. Nurses are on the front lines, says Haslam-Stroud, and the false alarms of Ebola cases in Ontario have demonstrated where the gaps exist in preparedness. There is still some debate about whether Ebola can be aerosolized and some experts are calling for powered air purifyer respirators.
October 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud told CBC News at Six Ottawa (October 13, 2014) that Canada needs to be able to say that we have the appropriate protective equipment and appropriate training to handle a case of Ebola. Ontario nurses are pushing for better training and equipment, but as yet, the province is not quite there, and the stakes are high. Nurses are looking for an upgraded version of a respiratory mask to protect them. Over the weekend, there were possible cases of Ebola in hospitals in Ottawa and Belleville.
October 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that there is no consensus on whether or not Ebola can spread through the air, saying that someone could inhale tiny airborne particles if exposed to them long enough in an exposed space (CBC.CA News, October 13, 2014.) Haslam-Stroud says her organization is working with the government right now to resolve the possibility of aerosol transmission. “Ebola has a lot of unknowns to it,” she says. Meanwhile, officials say that test results for a patient in isolation in Ottawa for possible Ebola have come back negative; a man in Belleville remains in hospital awaiting results of blood tests.
October 7: Dr. Samir Gupta reports that hospitals in Ontario who are forcing health-care workers to get a flu vaccine or wear a mask have seen – in some facilities – vaccination rates going from 55 per cent to above 70 per cent (Global News, October 7, 2014). There has, however, been much controversy – the RNAO supports the policy, but the Ontario Nurses’ Association opposes it and has filed grievances. Gupta says that health-care workers are the “ones with the training and expertise to care for flu victims, so they have an obligation to minimize their chances of being infected so they’re available to take care of patients if there’s a severe outbreak. He argues that there is data that shows that patient vaccination reduces hospitalizations from flu and death from flu. The trickier argument is whether mandatory flu shots represent an infringement on people’s basic human rights. The question, he says, is “really one for the public.” His personal opinion, Gupta says, is that being a health care worker is a “privilege and not a right, and for me, I can accept the loss of certain autonomy that comes with that privilege.”
October 3: Registered nurses at St. Joseph’s Health Care – London have voted 87 per cent in favour of joining the Ontario Nurses’ Association (Queen’s Park Briefing, October 3, 2014). The bargaining unit votes stemmed from a Ministry of Health decision to integrate mental health services and open a new centre in November 2015. The labour board ruled that the move was a health service integration and ordered a vote of the various bargaining units before the new centre opened.
October 2: As the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital’s CEO, Linda Bisonette, prepares to leave the position, she presided over her final service recognition awards ceremony (Perth EMC, October 2, 2014). ONA Local representative Mary Lou White spoke for her fellow nurses on the “duality that is their life.” She said that nurses can multi-task in a busy environment, “but you screw up the recipe for Rice Krispy squares.” On one hand, a nurse may need a doctor’s note to administer Tylenol, but can operate heart equipment on their own. “Further to this, you spend all day on your feet, but your personal physician tells you [that] you need to get more exercise.” Nurses are adept at figuring things out on the fly, things that are not taught at school, such as deciphering doctor’s handwriting that “resembles graffiti on a dumpster.” She adds that patients often become extended family to the nurses, and that in addition to nurses’ intelligence and training, they believe that nothing can replace their human touch.
September 30: Contract talks have ended for the province’s for-profit nursing home owners and the Ontario Nurses’ Association’s 3,000 RNs and allied health professionals (CKNX AM, CHOK FM, September 30, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the employers are demanding the reduction of RN staff. The two sides are going to arbitration.
September 30: CFPL AM London (September 30, 2014) devoted its morning talk show to the issue of mandatory flu vaccines for health care workers. The hosts discussed the trend of Ontario hospitals making flu vaccinations mandatory for staff, or forcing unvaccinated staff to wear masks. It noted that last December, the Ontario Nurses’ Association objected to a plan by local hospitals to institute the policy. ONA ran ads against the policy and grieved it. The radio station noted that the “pro-flu shot crowd” sometimes overstates the effectiveness of the vaccine; the hosts say people should not be “tricked” into getting the vaccine with inaccurate information.
September 29: The Canadian Healthcare Network (September 29, 2014) reports that ONA has launched radio ads in cities and towns across the province to raise awareness of the value and role of RNs and allied health professionals working as Community Care Access Centre Care Coordinators. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the Care Coordinators “are on our side.” The RNs and allied health professionals “are there to assess their patients, develop personal care plans and arrange for vital health services for those who need them.” She adds that their work is enormously valuable to a health care system with tight budgets. “Safe care at home is the best we can aim for, and care coordinators make it possible.”
September 29: Mediation has ended for 3,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals working in Ontario for-profit nursing homes because the employer has demanded concessions to allow for the gutting of RN care (Canadian Healthcare Network, September 29, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “shareholder profit is clearly top of mind for nursing home owners, as they will not return to the table without an agreement to allow them to cut RN staff unchecked.” She adds that frail and elderly residents, who increasingly suffer from multiple chronic health conditions, deserve better. Haslam-Stroud says the for-profit owners are unwilling to provide appropriate RN staffing despite reams of evidence showing that more RNs mean safer, healthier long-term care residents. The two sides head to arbitration on October 22 and 23.
October 1: ONA has started to air radio ads in 11 Ontario cities to ensure that Ontarians take full advantage of the services provided by CCAC Care Coordinators (Marketing Magazine, October 1, 2014.) The goal is to raise awareness of the role of CCAC Care Coordinators, who help patients receive care at home. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna said that, “if people are going home, we need to be sure they have the right resources and that they have high-quality care, or else they end up right back at the hospital.” ONA is also waging a political battle against those who see CCACs as providing insufficient benefits to the health care system. McKenna says they just don’t understand the role of CCACs. She says that the care coordinators are front-line care providers already handling a multitude of patients yearly.
September 30: A year after London hospitals required nurses and doctors to get a flu shot or wear a mask, other major hospitals are following suit (London Free Press, September 30, 2014). Sunnybrook and North York General hospitals have followed London’s example and are part of a growing group of hospitals to adopt the practice. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says the flu shot or mask rule stigmatizes nurses and the union filed grievances against hospitals; they also paid for advertisements targeting them. The RNAO supports the flu shot or mask rule.
September 29: Contract talks between 3,000 ONA registered nurses and 168 for-profit nursing home owners are going to arbitration (CFPL AM, CKPC-FM,CHML AM, CJOY AM, September 29, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that negotiations ended after employers demanded the option to cut registered nursing staff.
September 29: Stalled contract talks between RNs and for-profit nursing homes have the two sides heading to arbitration (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 29, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that “shareholder profit is clearly top of mind for nursing home owners as they will not return to the table without an agreement to allow them to cut RN staff unchecked.” ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, “our frail and elderly patients deserve better.”
September 29: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is launching a radio ad campaign to defend the Community Care Access Centre system (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 29, 2014). Critics say the system is a health-care bureaucracy that must be streamlined, but the ads aim to persuade the public that CCAC care workers – many of them nurses – help boost the quality of home care at a time when budgets are tight. Haslam-Stroud says, “These dedicated registered nurses are there to assess their patients, develop personal care plans and arrange for vital health services for those who need them.” The two radio ads describe in-home scenarios where CCAC care coordinators are needed. Haslam-Stroud says the care coordinators save money and ensure that patients are supported.
September 29: Contract talks between 3,000 registered nurses and health professionals at 168 nursing homes in Ontario are heading to arbitration (Canadian Press, September 29, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that negotiations have ended over what she calls the employers’ demand to reduce staffing. Haslam-Stroud says that for-profit homes owners won’t return to the negotiating table without an agreement that allows them to cut RN staff. Arbitration will be held October 22 and 24.
September 12: The Ontario Nurses’ Association has named Marie Kelly as its interim CEO and Chief Administrative Officer, effective October 1 (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 12, 2014). Kelly succeeds Michael Balagus, who has been named the chief of staff to Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, “Marie is a seasoned labour lawyer and ONA director who understands how our organization works and the priorities of our registered nurses and allied health professionals.”
September 19: The Brampton Guardian (September 19, 2014) has profiled Allison Brown. Brown is an RN who is running for city councilor; she says she worked with the Ontario Nurses’ Association at the provincial and local levels and has years of experience. Brown says she lives to help and serve others.
September 9: Endoscopy units at Humber River Hospital face criticism after an Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) of nursing experts produced a lengthy report with 32 recommendations to improve patient care and nurse safety (Canadian OH&S News, September 9, 2014.) ONA members at the hospital had voiced concerns about problems within the two units including understaffing and an incorrect mix of staff skills. When registered nurses’ attempts to express their concerns to management failed, they “took advantage” of the professional responsibility clause in their contracts to push for the IAC to investigate the situation and generate solutions.
September 6: Staff from ONA’s Timmins office and members appeared front and centre marching in the region’s first ever Pride Parade (Timmins Daily Press, September 6, 2014.)
September 4/5: A number of on-site parking-lot closures are forcing nurses working at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus to park their cars off site (CBC News at Six Ottawa/Ottawa Morning, September 4/5, 2014.) Several of the hospital’s parking lots have been closed as a result of ongoing construction projects; off-site lots at Dow’s Lake, Champlain and the Experimental Farm are being used at alternatives for commuters who must then take a shuttle to the hospital. ONA Bargaining Unit President Frances Smith warns that this is a “huge issue,” especially for veteran nurses, and those coming off long shifts and/or working odd hours. “We come out of work, and we've missed the shuttle. So here you are waiting until the next shuttle. You're so tired and so fed up by that point. All you want to do is go home.”
September 4: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is concerned about the impact of major changes coming to St. Joseph’s Hospital (CHML Radio Hamilton, AM 900, September 4, 2014). The hospital says it is preparing to “swap” 44 RN positions with RPN positions. The two categories of nurse are qualified to provide different levels of care. The hospital is cutting a total of 58 RN positions, almost all of them full-time. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that patient care will be compromised.
September 4: Planning for the debut of Pridefest in Sault Ste. Marie is in “hyperdrive” (Sault Star, September 4, 2014). Theodore Syrette, the event’s organizer, says he is nailing down the final details of many of the events that will be held this weekend. Among the sponsors of the first Pride weekend are local unions, including the Ontario Nurses’ Association, OPSEU, CUPE and one individual donor. The event will include a flag-raising and opening ceremony, a rainbow information expo, an adults-only dance party, film festival, comedy night and Pride walk.
September 4: St. Joseph’s Healthcare is preparing to “swap 44 registered nurse (RN) positions for RPNs, and Ontario’s nursing union says it is “absolutely devastated” (Hamilton Spectator, September 4, 2014). The hospital is cutting 58 RN positions, 52 of which are full time. The majority of the cuts are in the surgery and medical units, and Ontario Nurses’ Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud worries that patient care will be compromised. The cuts are about balancing budgets on the “backs of our…RNs and our patients,” she says. The hospital is looking to cut about $10 million by March 31. Chief nursing executive Winnie Doyle says that the RPNs who are replacing the RNs are capable of providing safe care “in cases where patients have what we call predictable outcomes, where your treatment goes according to how we’d think it would go.” But Haslam-Stroud says that these days, you’d be hard pressed to find a post-op patient in hospital with a “predictable outcome.” She points out that now, the only post-op patients who stay overnight in hospital are “more acute and more unstable and less predictable.” While Haslam-Stroud says that there is “absolutely a place for RPNs in the system…certainly it is not fair to them to have their registration put at risk” by having RPNs care for patients who are not stable.
September 3: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN took the ALS ice bucket challenge in front of the Charlton campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton yesterday (Canadian HealthcareNetwork.ca, September 3, 2014). The location was chosen to raise awareness of nursing cuts. The hospital has issued notices of layoff to 58 RNs; 52 of the positions are full-time. Haslam-Stroud, herself a St. Joe’s RN, says the cuts are due to a budget deficit and will hurt patients the most. She says that St. Joe’s is just the latest in a long line of hospitals cutting RNs. Video of the President taking the challenge is on ONA’s YouTube channel; Haslam-Stroud has made a person donation to the ALS Society of Canada and challenged executives of the hospital to take the challenge, as well as Donna Bain, RN, the Bargaining Unit President at the hospital.