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:
October 14: The Ontario Nurses’ Association and Elgin St. Thomas Public Health unit are in conciliation, trying to reach a new deal (St. Thomas Times-Journal, October 14, 2016). The two are trying to hammer out the terms of a new collective agreement for the unit’s nurses, who have been without a contract since the end of last March. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says her members are “really pushing to get the contract done. They’re gearing up for immunization clinics, all the school programs they’re involved in…I hope that the employer comes to the table, ready to sit down and actually get this contract done.” McKenna says remuneration is a key part of the negotiations. Low wages at this unit compared with the rest of the province makes it hard to attract and retain public health nurses. However, it’s not just about wages, she says. “There are other issues in regards to their general working conditions that have been difficult and challenging for them that they are trying to remedy.” McKenna says that the last thing nurses want to do is go on strike.
October 12: As the trial continues for Brockville Mental Health Centre on Ministry of Labour charges of failing to protect its nurses, the hospital’s director of patient services said he believed no extra security or training was needed (Brockville Recorder & Times, October 12, 2016). Steve Duffy, RN, said “we did not feel there was a need to make any changes prior to the arrival” of the patient who subsequently repeatedly stabbed an RN. The ministry charged the facility with five infractions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act following the incident. Duffy testified that he believed security was adequate and that more security presence on the night of the attack would not have prevented it. The hospital has been ordered to comply with safety measures to enhance safety for nurses in the forensic treatment unit. The hospital must also develop, in collaboration with the Ontario Nurses’ Association and other unions as well as the Joint Health and Safety Committee, a “flagging policy and procedure to identify patients with a risk of workplace violence, their triggers, control measures and procedures to protect workers.”
October 1: Andrew Faas, the founder of the foundation that is suing the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health to retrieve a portion of the funds he donated for the intention of creating a healthy workplace, says CAMH has an “attitude of entitlement” (thestar.com. October 1, 2016). Faas says “…I’ve spent the bulk of my career managing complex projects and I know when work is done and work is not done. What I got was a bunch of gobbledygook just to appease me, stating the work had been done.” Faas intended the funds to “create psychologically healthy and safe and fair workplaces” by addressing the mental health concerns of staff. He says it was clear that the role of CAMH was to research and provide “evidence-based solutions.” ONA Vice-President Andy Summer says, “Knowing what we know about CAMH and the instances of violence, threats, attacks and just fear in the workplace, we know that what is referred to broadly as ‘psychological safety’…it’s absolutely right for a place like this. This is a place that should be focusing on it.” CAMH recently pleaded guilty to a workplace safety charge related to the 2014 beating of a nurse by a patient. The hospital was ordered to pay an $80,000 fine.
September 29: Andre Fass, who wants to make workplaces better, has withdrawn his one-million dollar donation to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) after he couldn’t get answers to how his money was being spent (Global TV, September 29, 2016). While the hospital stands by the progress it has made in the first year of its Well at Work Program, ONA Region 3 Vice-President Andy Summers said violence actually does exist at CAMH “to an amount that makes the workplace unhealthy,” adding that a psychological safety program that the Fass Foundation could have implemented would have been exceptionally useful to them.
September 29: After several months and an external peer review, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton says it’s still no closer to knowing why there was a rash of violence against its nurses early this year (CBC.ca News, September 29, 2016). The peer review had a lot of helpful suggestions, many of which the corporation is already doing, said Hospital CEO David Higgins, but the reason for the violence at that time period remains a mystery. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said the report is a good start, but doesn’t address occupational health and safety issues, adding St. Joe’s has to hire more nurses if it wants to achieve some of the goals laid out in the report. “Staff are trying their best under very, very difficult circumstances,” she said.“The report is great to a certain extent, but it certainly is not comprehensive enough.”
September 30: While St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton says it has already adopted most workplace safety recommendations from an arms-length panel to battle assaults on nurses, ONA believes the external review doesn’t examine whether there are enough staff to safely deal with violent incidents (Hamilton Spectator, September 30, 2016). St. Joseph’s commissioned the peer review after a series of attacks by patients on nurses last winter, including punching, groping and coffee-throwing. Recommendations from the review include looking at changes to physical infrastructure, expanding crisis intervention training, and evaluating the “staffing mix” with an eye to adding specialized staff such as behavioural and recreational therapists. Hospital President Dr. David Higgins said the hospital has already implemented many of the 20-plus recommendations, but ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud noted that while the review gives good advice from a “clinical perspective,” it didn’t look at staffing numbers for nurses and security personnel “through a health and safety lens.”
September 28: ONA members visiting Grand Bent helped kick off Community Health and Wellbeing Week and “grooved in support of a great program” (Lakeshore Advance, September 28, 2016). ONA members were in town for a conference at the Oakwood Resort. The nurses donated money to participate in a Zumba class, with the proceeds going to the “We Can Help Fund.” The Grand Bend and Area Community Health Centre’s Executive Director, Cate Melito, says she is grateful for ONA’s interest and initiative, and that this is what health and wellbeing is all about, “getting active, being with others, paying it forward, and contributing to the health and vitality of community life.”
September 24: Joseph Brant Hospital’s restructuring will result in “dozens” of front-line jobs being eliminated and new positions created (Hamilton Spectator, September 24, 2017). CEO Eric Vandewall says the end result will be 12 new positions, but the Ontario Nurses’ Association questions whether those jobs will be on the front lines. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says: “There is a lot of grey in what the employer is talking to us about. I’m a bit concerned that very clear factual information when you are impacting the lives of the nursing workforce isn’t available. This is not, in my view, a very good process they have followed in being transparent.” She says that nearly 19 full-time RN positions are being cut from the front lines, and an equal number of RN positions being created. However, she says that many of the new RN positions are for charge nurses – at least 10 of them – which Haslam-Stroud says are a management role. “You are still pulling the RNs off the front line,” she says. “We should be seeing it go the other way. That’s great they are adding additional RN positions as charge nurses, but that should not be in lieu of front-line care.” Vandewall did admit there “will be some units that see a reduction of registered nurses” and that 25 new, full-time RPNs will be hired.
September 9: Ontario Nurses’ Association members working in Ontario hospitals have a new two-year contract that provides wage increases and changes to their health benefits (Benefits Canada, September 9, 2016). In addition, the RNs will see changes to their attendance management policies and “strong language” intended to combat violence in the workplace. The changes cover a two-year period expiring March 31, 2018 and were released by an arbitrator. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, said ONA is “deeply disappointed that our highly educated, highly skilled RNs have been given a general wage increase of 1.4 per cent in each year of the contract…” She notes that those in male-dominated professions have been awarded much higher wage increases.
September 7: Ontario’s 50,000 hospital RNs, including 500 at Quinte Health Care, have a new contract (CJOJ FM, CJTN FM, September 7, 2016). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says an arbitrated decision gave the RNs 1.4-per-cent wage increases in each year of a two-year deal.
September 7: News talk show host Andy Oudman (NewsTalk 1290 CJBK, September 7, 2016) asks whether the new arbitrated settlement for hospital RNs is generous enough. Oudman says he has five sisters, four of them nurses. He notes that nurses got 1.4-per-cent increases, but other unions – for instance, those representing police and firefighters – got more. Are nurses any less important?
September 7: RNs in Ontario hospitals will be getting a raise and better health benefits in a new two-year contract (CTV News London, September 7, 2016). Hospitals are complaining the deal is too generous and RNs say it’s not enough. An arbitration board awarded the nurses a 1.4-per-cent wage increase in each of the two years.
September 7: ONA First Vice-President, Vicki McKenna, says that RNs are “very disappointed in the wage increases that were awarded in this contract” (CKCO TV Kitchener-Waterloo, September 7, 2016). McKenna’s comments were in response to a new two-year contract for hospital RNs, determined by an arbitrator. “We were looking to catch up a little bit. Even with inflationary rates as low as they are, we’ve been falling further and further behind,” McKenna notes. “We were looking to sort of keep pace or keep up with some of the male-dominated occupations…” ONA is already preparing for the next round of negotiations.
September 7: An arbitration board has awarded Ontario hospital RNs a 1.4-per-cent increase in each of two years of a new contract (Broadcast News, September 7, 2016). The nurses will also receive better vision, hearing aid and dental implant coverage. Nurses say they are “deeply discouraged” by the ruling, saying the increases won’t keep up with inflation.
September 7: RNs in Ontario hospitals will receive a raise and better health benefits after an arbitration award gave them a new contract (Canadian Press – CBC, St. Catharines Standard, Ottawa Sun, Toronto Sun, London Free Press, September 7-8, 2016). Hospitals say the 1.4-per-cent a year increase in each of two years is too generous; nurses say it’s not enough. The nurses note that the increases won’t keep up with inflation and that male-dominated professions have seen higher raises. The contract includes stronger language against violence in the workplace and a new minimum start rate for nurse practitioners.
September 6: The Labour Day parade in Port Elgin attracted thousands of union members (Owen Sound Sun Times, September 6, 2016). Attendee Greg Cooper said unions are critical to maintain. “It’s more important than it ever was,” he said. “The game’s changed. And I think that we don’t have to point a lot further than the CUPW negotiations where the company said there it is, take it or leave it.” Among those attending was Ruth Beattie, a 92-year-old former nurse. She said she walked from her nearby retirement home to see the parade and recalled what it was like when she joined a union. At the beginning of her career, she wasn’t in a union. “We didn’t get anything,” she said. “There was no benefits at all. And then we got the Ontario Nurses’ Association which the nurses still belong to.” ONA won the nurses a shift differential for working afternoon, overnight and holiday shifts.
August 18: Steve Paikin’s blog suggests a change in the way Ontario doctors negotiate new agreements (TVO, August 18, 2016). He writes that he is increasingly hearing those in health care ask whether it is time to break up the organization. Paikin writes that the other “major players in health care” – nurses – are similar to doctors in that there are different categories of nurses – RNs, RPNs, NPs – all working in the health care system. They are not all represented by the same union. The Ontario Nurses’ Association is the “best known for representing the nursing profession at the bargaining table,” but other unions also claim members. He asks why this couldn’t work for physicians as well.
August 13: An opinion editorial in the Windsor Star (August 13, 2016) calls for third-party ad spending loopholes during elections to be closed. The piece says that from “photocopied pamphlets to billboards and nasty television attack ads, the value of all election advertising” is carefully counted. Most jurisdictions put strict limits on what parties can spend. However, there is no limit on third-party spending in Ontario, and there should be. Over the past three elections, corporations have spent $641,000 trying to influence the outcome of our elections. Unions and special advocacy groups have spent $15.4 million. The big spenders are: IBEW, the Ontario Pipe Trades Council, UFCW, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Ontario Sheet Metal and Roofers Conference. The other union consortium is comprised of public-sector unions: OSSTF, Amalgamated Transit Union, United Steelworkers, OECTA, Ontario Nurses’ Association, CUPE and OPSEU. Opposition members say these unions have won wage increases far in excess of what private-sector workers have been earning in similar fields. The editorial says the Liberals have to do better if they don’t want to preside over a further deterioration in voter turnout next election.
August 11: CBC Radio (August 11, 2016) has aired a one-hour call-in show called Code White on violence in nursing. A variety of nurses’ stories were recounted, including a nurse whose eye socket was fractured and head, face and neck injured when a patient repeatedly kicked her in the head. Nurses say violence happens across Ontario all the time. CBC’s Giacomo Panico says that “patients can be anxious and angry. Sharp objects are everywhere. It’s a volatile mix. The Ontario Ministry of Labour has investigated and fined hospitals for failing to adequately protect nurses. But their union says that’s not enough.” ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the “Ministry of Labour has not been helpful in trying to ensure that our nurses are safe. You cannot give order, after order, after order, without follow-up.” Forensic mental health nurse Stan French says that he also worked as a mental health nurse in the armed forces in Afghanistan. He found that nursing in the armed forces was a “break because the stress that I felt while I was in a war zone at the Role 3 hospital in Kandahar was less than what I felt working on the job in a medium security forensic facility. French notes that nurses are not included in recent provincial PTSD legislation. Yet “nurses are exposed to many of the same types of potentially traumatic events that jail guards are, and jail guards are included in first responders’ legislation.” RNAO President Doris Grinspun says that of all lost-time injuries, RNs account for 56 per cent of them, and 11 per cent of those are due to violence. She says that organizations have “an obligation to protect their employees….staffing is a critical one.”
August 4: ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna believes the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre needs a “wake-up call” (Stittsville News, August 4, 2016). McKenna is appalled that all charges laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act against Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre have been dismissed by a justice of the peace. The charges stemmed from a 2012 attack on four staff by a violent patient. One nurse was choked into unconsciousness during the attack. ONA is calling for the Ministry of Labour to appeal the ruling. McKenna said, “This is a sad day for Ontario’s health-care workers.” The same employer’s hospital in Brockville is currently facing five charges under the Act for an incident in which an RN was stabbed in the throat by a patient. That trial is set to resume in August.
July 31: ONA staff member Svetlana Lazareva has been profiled by Canadian Immigrant (July 31, 2016). The ONA educator has not only written a book to help guide new immigrants to success in Canada, but she has now founded the ImmPress Institute. She says the ImmPress Institute is “a business as well as a lifestyle, inspiring people to live their greatest life is what I do no matter where I am…” The Institute features education, research, advocacy and publishing.
July 29: Nurses’ Newsline (July 29, 2016) reports that RNs at London Health Sciences Centre say that cuts to RN care have left patients waiting too long and compromised care quality. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that Ontario has the worst RN-to-population ratio and second-worst per-capita hospital funding in Canada. ONA Bargaining Unit President James Murray says, ”LHSC has cut more than a quarter of a million hours of RN care, or 140 RN positions. The hospital has cut palliative care beds, left mental health patients for days or weeks in the ER, waiting to be admitted to an ICU bed, and it appears that management may have fired the chief nursing executive for advocating for RN care.” The London RNs held an information picket to raise public awareness about the cuts and subsequent risks to patient care.
July 29: CBC Radio 1 Windsor (July 29, 2016) reports that RNs were in front of London Health Sciences Centre holding an information picket. The ONA members say that the hospital has cut palliative care beds and left mental health patients waiting in the ER for days or weeks. ONA says that province has the worst RN-to-population ratio in Canada, and the second-worst per capita hospital funding.
July 29: CTV News London (July 29, 2016) reports on an information picket held by ONA members at London Health Sciences Centre. The RNs handed out flyers to people in front of the hospital, saying the province has cut more than 2.8 million hours of RN care since 2015. At London Health Sciences Centre, more than 140 RN positions have been cut. James Murray says that “RNs are the most appropriate care provider. Study after study shows that patient outcomes are improved when a registered nurse provides care, and that’s why we’re here, we’re here just informing the public of that message.”
July 29: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud is calling for a change in culture at St. Joseph’s Health Care (CHML AM Hamilton, July 29, 2016). She says the change needs to include appropriate staffing levels and flagging of potentially violent patients. “We need to have it coming from the top that our nurses and keeping them safe is a number-one priority,” she said. The comments come in the wake of a series of assaults on staff at the hospital’s West 5th Campus. In a later CHML report, Haslam-Stroud is quoted as saying “It’s over. We are not going to accept that violence is part of our job, and that we are going to continually be pummeled on the front line.”
July 30: Brockville General Hospital’s interim president and CEO Wayne Blackwell is enjoying a “honeymoon” with staff right now (Brockville Recorder & Times, July 30, 2016). He has taken on the role temporarily after the board announced it had “parted ways” with former CEO and President Tony Weeks. Blackwell confirmed what ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said last week. “It was not a good environment from the employment perspective,” he said. Staff has offered to help to improve the situation, but Weeks says the hospital is not in good shape financially. Blackwell says that he does not plan to go in and look at who can be laid off. Instead, he’s looking for outside contracts that could be eliminated or programs that could be put on hold to cut costs.
July 28: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud tells CHML Radio Hamilton (July 28, 2016) that the issue of workplace violence is a growing problem, not just one we’re suddenly hearing more about. The kinds of injuries nurses are experiencing are more severe, and WSIB statistics show that lost-time injuries are escalating. Haslam-Stroud says that one of the causes is staff reductions across Ontario; RN positions have been reduced by more than 1,600 in the last 18 months. Stress levels increase for patients and nurses, and we also lack appropriate flagging systems for violent patients. She says the issue is not about “mental health stigma,” it’s about trying to keep patient safe. ONA has worked with the CEO of the Michael Garron Hospital in the Toronto area to put in place systems that have decreased workplace violence. Haslam-Stroud has spoken directly to the CEO of St. Joe’s Health System but that the hospital “came kicking and screaming into any kind of action. We’re still seeing a very reactionary approach.” The hospital continues to have very poor communication. Haslam-Stroud also says that RNs also experience more assaults than corrections officers.
July 28: Nursing staff at Norfolk General Hospital are having an “anxious” summer (Delhi News-Record, July 28, 2016). RNs at the hospital have been notified of pending layoffs due to a projected deficit of $1.7 million. The hospital is looking to close four step-down beds in the ICU and transfer responsibility for caring for the patients to the current nursing staff on the third floor. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says she isn’t convinced the hospital’s strategy will save money. “Staff have had cuts before and feel that more cuts are coming,” she said. “It’s demoralizing. It gets in the way of the care our members want to provide.” She adds that patients will likely spend more time in the ICU when the cuts come, adding to costs.
July 28: ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the “Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre needs a wake-up call” (Kanata Kourier-Standard, July 28, 2016). McKenna is appalled by a decision to dismiss all charges against the hospital relating to a 2012 attack on four staff by a mental health patient. Charges were laid by the Ministry of Labour under the Occupational Health & Safety Act. ONA and the Crown assert that the hospital did not do enough to warn staff that the patient was violent; ONA is calling for an appeal of the decision. McKenna says that “this is a sad day for Ontario’s health-care workers. This not only affects ONA’s 62,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, but we continue to be deeply concerned about insufficient security and other safety measures for those providing patient care at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre.”
July 28: A Ministry of Labour report says staff at St. Joseph’s West 5th site have been forced to use pillows and mattresses to shield themselves from violent patients (Hamilton Spectator, July 28, 2016). The ministry has issued 24 orders against the facility since December 16, 2015. Recently, an RPN was assaulted by a patient, an incident that has led to CUPE Local 786 President Domenic DiPasquale to call for staff to double up when interacting with patients. The number of violent incidents doubled from 2013 to 2015; problems include issues with posting workplace violence and harassment policies and providing non-violent crisis intervention training to employees. St. Joe’s commissioned an external review on workplace safety, but it has yet to be issued to the hospital’s violence prevention committee. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that one of the frustrations for nurses is that the Joint Health and Safety Committee had already made recommendations resembling those of the ministry, but their suggestions were not taken. McKenna says that while RN jobs have not been cut yet, those leaving their positions are not being replaced. “There has not been an overt reduction,” she says, “but if someone transfers or retires, they haven’t been replacing them.” ONA Health and Safety expert Erna Bujna says that 11 per cent of lost-time claims from nurses are due to workplace violence, and the trend of rising assaults at St. Joe’s can be seen province-wide. Some health-care facilities report up to 4,000 security calls and 500 violent incidents a year. In 2013, there were more than 600 lost-time injuries for nurses, and Bujna says there is “huge under-reporting.”
July 27: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has written a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail (July 27, 2016) to defend defined benefits (DB) pension plans. She notes that the employer argument against DB pensions is that they carry risk in economic downturns. However, the risk is far greater during those times for defined contribution (DC) plans, she writes. Haslam-Stroud says that DB public pension plans have longer investment horizons, are better positioned to deal with downturns and produce significantly more income than DC plans.
July 27: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is hoping for “better days” in Brockville on the labour relations front (Brockville Recorder & Times, July 27, 2016). She says she welcomes the board of Brockville General Hospital’s decision to replace president and CEO Tony Weeks. “We’re very hopeful that the new CEO will be able to build a relationship with the staff and improve the credibility of the senior team with staff,” she said. Tense relations between staff and management have been no secret recently as declining provincial funding became an issue. “Decisions made over the last couple of years, we do not believe were made in the best interests of patients and the RNs,” said Haslam-Stroud. She notes that decisions to cut the charge nurse and replace RNs in the hospital’s ICU have now just been reversed.
July 7: Members of the Hospital Professionals Division of OPSEU have ratified a tentative agreement (Broadcast News, July 7, 2016). The workers – employees of 53 hospitals in Ontario – were 92 per cent in favour. An OPSEU official says the agreement includes wage increases and lump sums that will match those awarded to the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
July 7: Executives of Quinte Health Care hospitals say the controversial staff restructuring is providing major reductions in alternate-level-of-care patients (Trenton Trentonian, July 7, 2016). CEO Mary Clare Egberts told the hospital board that the interprofessional care team seems to be the main reason why there have been declines in the number of ALC patients – though this is not confirmed. The restructuring plan is now “in limbo” pending further directions from the health ministry. While Egberts says the team has improved the quality of life for patients, the Ontario Nurses’ Association says the model puts patients at risk by reducing the number of RNs and their time with patients.
July 6: The lawyer of a registered nurse who stole pain medications from dying patients is urging Justice Larry O’Brien to not send his client to jail (Kingston Whig-Standard, July 6, 2016). Mark Ertel says that nothing would be served by sending the nurse to jail, recommending instead that she receive a conditional sentence that she can serve at home, followed by probation and continuing drug counseling and therapy. The nurse has apologized for her actions, and said it was never her intention to harm anyone. The RN was fired after her crimes were discovered. The Ontario Nurses’ Association has lodged a grievance on her behalf; a hearing is to be held this fall into that matter. Her lawyer believes the College of Nurses will allow her to resume her career with future restrictions to practice.
July 6: Grand River Community Health Centre and its nurses are scheduled to meet with a conciliator this week (Brantford Expositor, July 6, 2016). The six NPs and RNs have been without a contract since March 31. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the CHC is looking to lay off one of its three NPs to balance a budget shortfall of $120,000. She notes that the CHC management team is well compensated and is expanding in number.
July 2: Workers at 53 Ontario hospitals have ratified a tentative collective agreement by 92 per cent (Waterloo Region Record, July 2, 2016). The OPSEU members voted in favour of the three-year deal that gives them wage increases and/or lump sums for the first year that match those awarded to the Ontario Nurses’ Association. The agreement covers 12,000 hospital staff working in more than 250 occupations.
June 29: The controversial restructuring of staff at Quinte Health Care is providing “major reductions” in the number of alternate-level-of-care patients at the hospitals (Belleville Intelligencer, June 29, 2016). The board was told that the “success of the inter-professional care team isn’t confirmed” but is believed to be the main reason why there have been large declines in ALC patients. While the hospital’s corporate officials say the new skill mix provides better and more care, the Ontario Nurses’ Association says it puts patients at risk by reducing the number of registered nurses and their time with patients.
June 25: A letter to the editor of the London Free Press (June 25, 2016) from Linda Haslam-Stroud says that ONA has been speaking out for almost two decades about the erosion of RN care in our health facilities. While ONA members have faced intimidation from government and employers, we have “remained steadfast in fulfilling our role as advocates for patients.” News that London Health Sciences Centre chief nursing officer Vanessa Burkoski is no longer employed because she spoke up for her patients should infuriate the community of London, says Haslam-Stroud. The community wants to trust that they will receive safe, quality nursing care when they need it.
June 22: ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is not surprised that there’s ongoing violence taking place in health-care facilities in Ontario (CBC News at Six Ottawa, June 22, 2016). Nurses have suffered broken bones and black eyes in multiple attacks at The Ottawa Hospital. Most recently, the attacks have been so severe that they have triggered an investigation into the psychiatric ER of The Ottawa Hospital by the Ministry of Labour. The ministry has investigated the hospital 43 times and issued 26 orders since 2011, and Haslam-Stroud says it could have prevented attacks if inspectors were more diligent. “The Ministry of Labour has not been helpful in trying to ensure that our nurses are safe,” she said. “You cannot give order, after order, after order without follow up.”
June 22: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that one of the organization’s concerns is that there have been “orders written, and orders written, and orders written” by the Ministry of Labour regarding The Ottawa Hospital’s security issues “without a real, concrete plan that is protecting our nurses (CBO FM, June 22, 2016). Haslam-Stroud says she is pleased to say that the hospital’s CEO has committed to working with ONA to prevent future attacks on staff.
June 22: Chief Nursing manager Debra Bournes says The Ottawa Hospital has improved security in its psychiatric ER (CBO FM, June 22, 2016). While applauding the work of the hospital, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she believes some of the violent attacks on nurses and other staff could have been prevented. “The Ministry of Labour has not been helpful,” she said. “You cannot give order after order after order without follow up, without ensuring that things are improving for safety…” she said. In the past five years the province has investigated the hospital 11 times for workplace violence, but unions say there have been hundreds of attacks that have not triggered an investigation.
June 22: CBC Radio 1’s Ottawa Morning show (June 22, 2016) asks listeners to imagine going to work each day and facing assaults. That is the situation at The Ottawa Hospital where nurses and staff can be punched and attacked. In the past five years, the Ministry of Labour has investigated 11 incidents where staff safety was in jeopardy. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that there have been more than 40 incidents of violence over the past few years where the ministry has had to investigate. The hospital’s VP of Clinical Services says that management is going to review what needs to be done to keep staff safer.
June 22: CBC Radio 1 (June 22, 2016) reports that the Ministry of Labour is investigating The Ottawa Hospital for patient attacks on workers at its Civic campus. Three nurses and one security guard have been injured by patients with injuries ranging from a black eye to a broken leg. ONA’s leader says that management appears to be taking concrete action to prevent future attacks on staff.
June 22: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that violent attacks at The Ottawa Hospital have been a problem for years (CBC News, June 22, 2016). Patients have used furniture as weapons, punched nurses and seriously injured others. Debra Bournes, the Vice-President of Clinical Services for the hospital, says they “need to do a lot better when it comes to health and safety.” She says investigations by the Ministry of Labour have led to changes. Bournes also says that what has happened to these nurses has “kept her up at night.” Management is now looking at issuing personal alarms to nurses, much like their colleagues at the General campus already have. The ministry has issued orders, notes Haslam-Stroud, but has never charged the hospital under the Occupational Health & Safety Act.
June 21: An independent panel of nursing experts has made 18 long-awaited recommendations to improve care at Humber River Hospital’s Hemodialysis Unit (Nurses’ Newsline, June 21, 2016). ONA members, RNs in the unit, have been raising professional responsibility concerns since 2011. Among the 18 recommendations were those urging the hospital to address RN staffing levels, address fragmented and interrupted care, address professional practice issues, including practice standards and nurse leadership, and develop a staffing tool based on patient acuity. This was the third investigation at Humber River Hospital, and ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says “it is unfortunate that it took so long to have this investigation take place, leaving our patients at risk.” She hopes to work with management at Humber and its new CEO, an RN, “who would understand the concerns of front-line RNs…”
June 22: Nurses at The Ottawa Hospital have been repeatedly assaulted by violent patients in incidents that have triggered changes at the Civic campus and an ongoing Ministry of Labour investigation (CBC.CA News, June 22, 2016). The province is investigating three incidents this year, attacks on two nurses and a security guard. The hospital has since notified the ministry of a fourth incident. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says such assaults have been a problem at The Ottawa Hospital for several years. From April 2011 to January 2016, Ministry of Labour inspectors have investigated 11 complaints, conducted 40 field visits and issued 22 orders. Nurses have been left bruised, bloodied and with broken bones in the attacks. ONA says the province is not doing enough, noting the ministry investigates only when serious injuries occur. According to data compiled from three unions, there have been more than 50 complaints of workplace violence and harassment across the hospital this year alone. Despite dozens of site inspections over the years, Haslam-Stroud believes some of these attacks could have been prevented if the ministry was more diligent in enforcing safety. “The Ministry of Labour hasn’t been helpful in trying to ensure our nurses are safe,” she said. “You cannot give order after order after order without follow up and ensuring things are improving at The Ottawa Hospital for nurses.”
June 21: The president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association says the firing of London Health Sciences Centre chief nursing executive “illustrates a larger systemic problem of hospital bosses trying to muzzle their staff” (Windsor Star, June 21, 2016). Linda Haslam-Stroud says the incident is “not uncommon.” In a CBC interview, Haslam-Stroud says that rising health-care costs, coupled with minimal or no government funding increases in recent years, has put pressure on hospitals to slash budgets. To cut costs, several hospitals have opted to replace registered nurses with less-expensive registered practical nurses. Nurses have protested, saying much of the “nurse swapping” is occurring in acute care hospitals, where patients have critical and complex needs.
June 20: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is very concerned to hear of the termination of Vanessa Burkoski as chief nursing executive of London Health Sciences Centre (CBC London, June 20, 2016). Burkoski was the victim of a CEO who was trying to muzzle her and was pushed out for advocating for patient care and nurses, says Haslam-Stroud. “I have to let you know that this is not uncommon. We are seeing this across the province, where nurses at many levels are being forced to be muzzled for fear of losing their position.” The employers, the LHINs and the government are now all supporting the “gutting of registered nursing positions in the acute care hospital,” where the most complex and unpredictable patients are being cared for. She says that due to frozen funding, budgets are being balanced on the backs of these patients and RNs. The report that Burkoski was associated with states that patients are in harm’s way because of decisions to replace RNs with lesser-qualified staff. Haslam-Stroud says that cutting RNs is “the government’s agenda, and this paper basically spoke to the government’s agenda and where the nursing workforce should be.” She adds that “patient care, quality of care is not part of the equation anymore, even though you might hear that.”
June 17: A nursing changeover due to layoffs is now underway at Windsor Regional Hospital’s Met campus (CKLW AM Windsor, June 17, 2016). Blaming lack of funding, the hospital has cut 169 RNs and replaced some of them with practical nurses. ONA says there are major problems with filling shifts and some RNs are working a lot of overtime.
June 17: CKLW AM Windsor (June 17, 2016) reports that Windsor Regional Hospital is holding a two-day training session for each practical nurse hired to replace some of the 169 registered nurses the hospital has cut. Karen Riddell says “all of the RNs and the RPNs” currently with the hospital are being trained “as part of the new model of care…” The Ontario Nurses’ Association said there are major problems with filling shifts and gaps in schedules due to the changes.
June 20: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the firing of the “head nurse” at London Health Sciences Centre illustrates a larger systemic problem of hospital bosses trying to muzzle their staff (CBC News, June 20, 2016). Vanessa Burkoski, former chief nursing executive at the hospital, was fired earlier this month after the RNAO released a report critical of the province’s plan to replace RNs with cheaper, less-educated health-care workers. Burkoski is also the president of the RNAO, and says she was offered a cash settlement to resign on three occasions, but refused. Haslam-Stroud says, “This is not uncommon. We are seeing this across the province where nurses at many levels are being forced to be muzzled for fear of losing their positions.” Haslam-Stroud says that rising health-care costs, coupled with minimal or no government funding increases in recent years, have put pressure on hospitals to slash budgets. Hospitals have cut RNs, sometimes opting to replace RNs with less-expensive practical nurses. Nurses have protested, saying much of the “nurse swapping” is occurring in acute care hospitals, where patients have critical and complex needs.
June 14: RNs at Windsor Regional Hospital say the hospital is in chaos as the deadline for cutting 169 RNs – and the likelihood of more cuts – looms (Nurses Newsline, June 14, 2016). ONA says that members are seeing nursing schedules posted late and with gaps where base staffing needs are not being met. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “RNs are working excessive amounts of overtime, and the hospital has resorted to bringing back retired registered nurses to backfill the empty positions. In some cases, the employer is trying to quietly cut more hours of patient care by deleting more positions by stealth. For our patients, this is completely unacceptable.” ER nurses received an email from management telling them that another three per cent has to be cut from the budget. Day shift staffing in the ER is being cut from 12 to 11 RNs, with more cuts possible.
June 16: Thunder Bay Pride Week is continuing with a performance by King JJ, the “drag King” who marched with the Ontario Nurses’ Association in the pride parade in 2014 (Chronicle-Journal, June 16, 2016). JJ performed at World Pride in Toronto and marched in the Pride Parade in Athens, Greece last year.
June 13: ONA is sounding the alarm over “chaos” at Windsor Regional Hospital after 169 registered nurses were laid off (AM 800 News Windsor, June 13, 2016). Local bargaining unit president Susan Sommerdyk says there is “unrest and anxiety” amongst remaining staff and morale is very low. She says that a shortage of available RNs means that schedules are being posted late with gaps that retired nurses are being brought in to fill. She adds that she has heard that more layoffs may be coming.
June 14: The CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital says that ONA’s claim that the hospital is in chaos is “not accurate at all” (Windsor Star, June 14, 2016). David Musyj says that it’s “really unfortunate to use words like that,” responding to ONA’s claim that the RNs are working excessive overtime, retired RNs are being called back to work, schedules are being posted late with gaps in them and that base staffing needs are not being met. “Is it difficult? Yes. Is it troubling for everyone? Yes,” said Musyj. Sue Sommerdyk, Bargaining Unit President for the hospital, says that many RNs are feeling anxious, suffering from low morale and feel stuck in limbo as fellow RNs quit or retire and the employer scrambles to fill the gaps. She says in some cases, four RNs are scheduled to work where there should be five, leaving them to scramble to provide care, pick up the slack, and consequently skip their lunch and breaks. “The nurses are at a point where they don’t know what to do. We want to provide the quality of care that we’re supposed to under out licensing, but a lot of nurses are filing complaints that they can’t do that,” said Sommerdyk. Staffing problems are becoming worse because of the number of nurses leaving as the job cuts loom. Some have retired; others have been recruited by Michigan hospitals.
June 8: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is holding meetings in Sault Ste. Marie this week and calling for changes at Sault Area Hospital (CTV News Sudbury, June 8, 2016). ONA members at SAH are concerned about staffing levels at the hospital. In the past four years, three independent nursing expert panels have expressed concern as well. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna said nurses tried to work out their concerns but “that didn’t come to be, so they took it to the expert panel.” SAH ONA Local 46 President Glenda Hubley says that staffing levels in the acute medical unit should be one RN to every four patients. “Right now, our nurses are working one RN to five or six patients. And based on the acuity of these patients, that is way too high for our nurses to give proper safe patient care.” The panel made 91 recommendations to the hospital to improve patient care. McKenna notes that there are “recommendations about adding staff, there’s recommendations about an educator role, there’s recommendations about a charge nurse. So there’s many things that will support the care of the patients.”
June 9: ONA fears that more nurses will be laid off shortly after an internal Windsor Regional Hospital email warned of job reductions (Windsor Star, June 9, 2016). Sue Sommerdyk, local president, says “the employer emailed some staff members in the unit” and “it sounds like to me that they will announce further layoffs.” Sommerdyk made it clear that these are not part of the previously announced massive RN layoffs. Nurses at Windsor Regional feel they are already overstretched and patient care will suffer – there will be longer waits in the ER. Sommerdyk says that at this point, it is speculation “as we have no official [layoff] notice. If this is realized, any reductions in the emergency room will impact patients. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that a suggestion of further cuts leaves employees in a state of flux. “Morale is low and nurses at the hospital are struggling with the changes happening. They are worried about their patients and the level of care…” she said. “This…is all about money and not what’s right for patients and people. That’s totally unacceptable.” Windsor CEO David Musyj says that ONA “has concerns across the whole province and I don’t discount those concerns…there are tough discussions, but nothing has been planned.”
June 8: Lambton Public Health Nurses have a new four-year contract (Petrolia Topic, June 8, 2016). The ONA members will see a 6.25-per-cent increase over the four years; Lambton County council ratified the deal on June 1. Now the county is in talks with ONA members employed at the county’s long-term care homes.
June 7: ONA members are holding their June Provincial Coordinators Meeting in Sault Ste. Marie this week (Nurses’ Newsline, June 7, 2016). While in the city, ONA members will be giving back to the community, undertaking four community service projects to improve the lives of local Aboriginal communities. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, said that “our dedicated RNs want to give back while in the Sault, and use our skills and energy to improve conditions in some small way for local communities. Tuesday afternoon, the nurses worked to revitalize the Garden River Pow Wow Grounds and Table Rock Hiking Trails, plant a garden at the Algoma Residential Community Hospice, held an education session and beautified the Batchewana Rankin Reserve Elder Care Centre and revitalized the Neighbourhood Resource Centre “The Otherside.”
June 7: ONA members will hold their June Provincial Coordinators Meeting in Sault Ste. Marie this week and will leave the community in better shape (SooToday.com, June 7, 2016). About 150 RNs and allied health professionals will be giving back to the community in addition to holding their own meeting, by undertaking four community service projects. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says, “as nurses, we care about our patients and our communities. Our dedicated RNs want to give back while in the Sault and use our skills and energy to improve conditions in some small way.”
June 4: Contract talks have stalled for care providers working for for-profit nursing homes in the province (Sarnia Observer, June 4, 2016). Vicki McKenna, the First Vice-President for ONA, said that the employer group representing 179 homes in Ontario – including three in Sarnia-Lambton, tabled an incomplete offer for wages and benefits. ONA represents 3,000 RNs, personal support workers and allied health professionals in the homes. McKenna says that mediation is scheduled for October. Workers “do not strike in this sector,” she says, so it’s business as usual. ONA is seeking wage parity with fellow ONA members working in hospitals and homes for the aged. “Nurses that work in long-term care should not be treated any differently from those that work in long-term care for municipal homes or for hospitals,” she said.
June 1: The Jerry Agar Show (CFRB AM, June 1, 2016) has attacked the challenge of midwives to government over pay equity issues. Agar says the midwives are not doctors and they shouldn’t be paid the same amount. Currently, they average about $100,000 yearly; the Ontario Nurses’ Association says the top rate for registered nurses is $78,000, and “you need more education to be a registered nurse, is my understanding, than you do to be a midwife.”
June 2: Sudbury City Council wants to debate whether or not it should continue to run the Pioneer Manor long-term care home (CBC Sudbury, June 2, 2016). The discussion about the facility’s future is already drawing concern. Ontario Nurses’ Association First Vice-President, Vicki McKenna, RN says “the community should be up in arms. They should be saying this is not going to happen.”
June 2: In an interview on the Carol Anne Meehan Show (1310 News Ottawa, June 2, 2016), ONA CEO/CAO Marie Kelly said the Ontario Labour Review Board orders to Brockville Mental Health Centre are a victory for nurses. Kelly explained that ONA had to push back and fight the Ministry of Labour for more than a year and a half in order to get minimum safety levels into the Brockville facility to protect nurses. “Our health-care facilities are completely lacking in appropriate workplace safety,” she said, “and we’ve got to change that…” Nurses say their jobs are all about the patients, and “that’s the beauty of RNs. They do this not for themselves, but they do it for their communities, and their families, and for the patients.” However, the wear and tear and stress on many ONA members is taking a toll as RN cuts continue. As for contract negotiations, Kelly said that ONA always prefers to reach a negotiated agreement, but the OHA presented a number of concessions – including one to make it easier for hospitals to cut RNs – that were not acceptable. The host of the show, noting that it seems that nurses are “under attack” with cuts, paltry wage increases and incidents of violence, also pointed out that nurses are excluded from PTSD legislation. Kelly said the exclusion is a “heart-breaker for us, quite frankly.” She says ONA met with the Minister before the legislation was introduced, and yet government chose to exclude nurses. “And if anybody should have been included in that legislation, for sure it’s nurses.”
June 2: The first day of a hearing of a registered nurse who stole pain medication from her dying patients was punctuated by the “intermittent sounds of people sobbing softly” (Kingston Whig-Standard, June 2, 2016). Laura Denouden, an opiate addict, worked in the Palliative Care Unit of St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital until fired in June 2015. Her lawyer disclosed that her Ontario Nurses’ Association Local has initiated a grievance over her termination. The RN is also under investigation by the College of Nurses of Ontario. The nurse has been deemed unfit to work and has been diagnosed with opiate dependence disorder, her lawyer said. She has pleaded guilty to the charges and has also taken steps to become well since her dismissal. The Assistant Crown Attorney in the case said he accepts that the RN’s pre-sentence report is positive and told the judge that he accepts that her remorse is genuine.
June 2: A letter to the editor of the Windsor Star (June 2, 2016) says that as an RN, Margot Dollar “should know better” than to slander the very nurses she once worked beside. Monique Lacasse writes that calling RPNs “second class” caregivers is just plain disrespectful. The decision of Windsor Regional Hospital to remove RPNs was an “unfortunate one which has led to the consequences we are currently experiencing,” she says. Lacasse writes that she thinks it’s “high time the public learn about the inaccurate and damaging rhetoric spewing out of the Ontario Nurses’ Association. They are misleading the public and employing the element of fear mongering.”
June 2: Lambton public health nurses have a new contract (Sarnia Observer, June 2, 2016). The four-year contract includes a 6.25 per cent increase for the 33 Ontario Nurses’ Association members. The county expects to pay $177,000 for the increases over the course of the four-year contract. Now the county is in negotiations with ONA members employed at its long-term care homes.
June 2: The province has ordered Brockville Mental Health Centre to install additional security features, improve staff training and hire security guards to patrol the forensic unit (Ottawa Sun, Ottawa Citizen, June 2, 2016). The Ontario Nurses’ Association successfully appealed the Ministry of Labour’s non-issuance of the order after a nurse was stabbed by a severely mentally ill patient. That attack is the subject of a trial underway now in Brockville in which the hospital is charged with five counts of workplace health and safety violations.
June 2: The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group Brockville site has been ordered by the Ontario Labour Relations Board to comply with a number of security measures to keep nurses and other workers in the forensic treatment unit more secure (Brockville Recorder & Times, June 2, 2016). ONA CEO Marie Kelly says “it’s not a nurse’s job to start wrangling violent patients to the floor.” Kelly says that while the order to post a security guard on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week stems from the same incident in which a nurse was stabbed in the head and neck – currently being heard in court – it is a different part of this case. “The prosecution is the Ministry of Labour stepping in under the Criminal Code and they’re now trying to impose a penalty as a deterrent mechanism to stop this employer and other employers in the future from doing this again. But it doesn’t require them, on a go-forward basis, to do specific things.” The labour board also ruled that the hospital must install a new electronic and alarm system to summon immediate assistance and provide better staff training. Security officers will perform routine and random unit patrols, respond to codes, and respond as directed by staff. In addition, the hospital must – in collaboration with ONA, other unions and the Joint Health & Safety Committee – develop a flagging procedure to identify potentially violent patients, their behaviors, triggers, control measures and procedures. ONA says that additional measures include installation of a security office located in that unit, and staff will be given additional training in defence against sharp-edged weapons. A consultant – agreed to by the parties – will conduct a written risk assessment of the unit.
May 31: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that an independent panel of nursing experts has made an unprecedented 91 recommendations to improve patient care in Sault Area Hospital’s 3C Acute Medical Short Stay Unit (Nurses’ Newsline, May 31, 2016). “The expert panel found that nursing professional practice and workload concerns raised by registered nurses are legitimate and justified,” she said. The recommendations are meant to address insufficient RN base staffing levels, unsafe, unmanageable and dangerous nurse-patient ratios, a high level of patient acuity and activity that has left RNs unable to provide quality care and meet their professional practice concerns. This was the third such panel called in to look at RN workloads and patient care issues at Sault Area Hospital.
May 27: An IAC has made 91 recommendations to improve care at the 3C Acute Medical Short Stay Unit at Sault Area Hospital (SooToday.com, May 27, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the panel “found that nursing professional practice and workload concerns raised by registered nurses are legitimate and justified.” The panel made recommendations “to address what our nurses know are insufficient base RN staffing levels, unsafe, unmanageable and dangerous nurse-patient ratios, a high level of patient acuity and activity that has left our dedicated RNs unable to provide quality care and meet their professional practice standards.” Haslam-Stroud says the panel could see the “level of extreme fatigue and low morale on this unit.” She notes that it is the third IAC hearing at Sault Area Hospital since 2012.
May 28: ONA says that an expert panel of nurses has made an unprecedented 91 recommendations to improve patient care and working conditions on the 3C Acute Medical Short Stay Unit at Sault Area Hospital (Northern Hoot, May 28, 2016). ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna notes that, “We have never had an Independent Assessment Committee in this province that has resulted in this many recommendations.” Among the 91 recommendations are: that the hospital increase staffing; review 3C unit admission criteria to ensure appropriate and timely admissions; a six-month trial run for an educator on the unit, and; the provision of appropriate staffing on 3C when students are present to ensure a positive learning environment. SAH nurses have been sounding the alarm about the urgent need to improve patient care for six years. McKenna says the hospital did not implement the promised changes, until finally, “the nurses…said we have to do the IAC, we have to call in the experts because the risk is just too high.” She says the nurses felt they had too many patients and it was not safe for the patients. SAH RN Glenda Hubley said, “All the nurses at the Sault Area Hospital go above and beyond to give excellent care…unfortunately, sometimes it is at the expense of themselves and their families.” Although not classified by the government as First Responders, Hubley says that nurses suffer from what they call “moral distress….when a patient is crashing in one room and I have a patient bleeding out in another room, my moral distress is which patient do I go to first?” Hubley says the budget comes first for management. “I would ask the employer, why would they hire supervisors and remove direct patient care nursing hours to create 13 hospital supervisors?” The IAC will meet with nurses and the employer on June 13.
May 25: Health-care activists rallied around the grounds of Windsor Regional’s Met Campus to call for an end to health-care cuts (Windsor Star, May 25, 2016). This protest “had a twist” – it promoted an unofficial province-wide referendum this weekend. The Ontario Health Coalition will be at workplaces and high-profile locations asking people to vote in the Stop Hospital Cuts Now Referendum this weekend. In a bid to deal with a funding shortfall, Windsor Regional announced it would cut 166 RNs and use more practical nurses. RNs typically have university degrees, and practical nurses have less education and “more limitations on what they can do.” Retired RN Margot Dollar says she has worked in Britain, the U.S. and Canada and hospitals are more overwhelmed than ever. “It makes me very afraid,” she said of bed shortages and the job prospects of RNs. Susan Sommerdyk of ONA Local 8, said “there’s nowhere for them [new RNs] to go. Every hospital is cutting registered nurses. We’ll lose them. It’s all because we don’t have proper hospital funding. We don’t have proper health-care funding.”
May 19: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath hopes that health care is a silent crisis voters in a Scarborough by-election care about (Scarborough Mirror, May 19, 2016). Horwath stood outside the Rouge Valley Health System Centenary campus and said that the hospital is a victim of a government that forces hospitals to close beds and cut nurses, based on “dollars and deficits instead of proper care for patients.” She and NDP Health Critic France Gelinas ran through a list of hospital frustrations, including ORs that are half the size they should be and ERs working far over-capacity. She quoted the Ontario Nurses’ Association’s data that 1,440 RNs have been cut from Ontario hospitals since the beginning of 2015 and called for a moratorium on RN cuts. Later, the Liberal government fired back, saying Horwath is misleading Ontarians with “selective and inaccurate information around the nursing sector.” Scarborough hospitals have replaced some RNs with RPNs or other staff, saying RNs weren’t needed in such positions.
May 19: The fates of some Quinte Health Care workers remain “in limbo” as management waits to hear more information from the health ministry about funding (Picton County Weekly News, May 19, 2016). While executives “describe staffing talks as saving jobs, ONA says there will likely be bad news for registered nurses. Hospital President and CEO Mary Clare Egberts said the hospital needs to cut $11.5 million from its budget. Now, the hospital says there may be just one “involuntary” loss of a job. ONA First Vice-president Vicki McKenna says a new staffing model being proposed will put patients at risk. “They still lost a tremendous amount of registered nursing hours,” said McKenna, predicting heavier workloads for remaining nurses. She adds that in the U.K. where shortsighted decisions were made, the result was “longer-term costs” and decisions that were detrimental to patient care.
May 18: The Ontario Nurses' Association says a Ministry of Labour prosecution of the Brockville Mental Health Centre is set to begin today (CBC News Radio London, May 18, 2016). Five charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to protect workers were laid against the hospital by the ministry in December 2014.
May 19: The case of an ONA member being stabbed in the neck by a patient on the forensic unit of Brockville Mental Health Centre was caught on security video (Ottawa Sun, Ottawa Citizen, May 19, 2016). The video was played on the first day of a trial of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, which operates the hospital. The Royal Ottawa has been charged with five violations of Ontario’s Occupational Health & Safety Act. The patient had been an inmate in a federal prison before being moved to Brockville because no institution in her home province of Saskatchewan had been able to deal with her. She had a long history of assaults on correctional workers and caregivers. The Crown is arguing that Royal Ottawa should have done more to prepare staff for the woman’s arrival and that staff lacked equipment, procedures and training to deal with such a violent patient. Nurses say they felt like “sitting ducks” as they provided supervision to patients such as the attacker. Nurses had repeatedly asked the hospital to install security cameras in patient rooms so they could be monitored remotely instead of having staff sit outside their doors.
May 17: The Ministry of Labour prosecution of Brockville Mental Health Centre is set to begin Wednesday (Nurses’ Newsline, May 17, 2016). The site has been charged with five infractions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to protect its workers. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that this employer has “been resisting any pressure to take additional measures to keep our dedicated registered nurses and health-care workers safe while providing quality patient care.” In November 2015, the employer lost a divisional court review of an application to quash a decision of the OLRB to post more security guards. At that time, Haslam-Stroud called on the employer to stop stalling and wasting taxpayers’ money and instead devote those funds to preventing workplace violence. Haslam-Stroud says that the “days of ignoring violent attacks on the very nurses who are providing care are over. Violence is never acceptable in the workplace, and ONA will be watching carefully to ensure this employer is held accountable. Not only our RNs, but patients will be safer for it.”
May 18: A trial will begin today in Brockville in the case of five labour charges against Brockville Mental Health Centre following the stabbing of a nurse in 2014 (Brockville Recorder & Times, May 18, 2016). The facility has been charged with five infractions related to failing to protect staff. Originally, the charges were brought in provincial court but adjourned in 2015 and referred to criminal court. The violent incident highlighted concerns about staff safety at Brockville and more widely within the health-care system. It is a “bone of contention” for groups such as the Ontario Nurses’ Association. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said, “nurses know that what’s needed is additional supports and a new physical infrastructure in this facility to reduce the risks of violent attacks by patients.”
May 18: ONA says that a Ministry of Labour prosecution of the Brockville Mental Health Centre is set to begin today (Canadian Press, May 18, 2016). The MOL laid five charges against the facility in December 2014, stemming from an incident in which a nurse was stabbed multiple times by a patient. The case is expected to take some time.
May 16: Last week was nursing week, and ONA Bargaining Unit President Sue Sommerdyk says it was hard to celebrate when the government doesn’t appreciate nurses (CBCL FM London, May 16, 2016). Sommerdyk and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath spoke of the loss of quality care that nurses can provide when nurses are laid off.
May 16: Sue Sommerdyk, Bargaining Unit President for the Ontario Nurses’ Association in Windsor, says the cuts to RNs must stop (CKLW AM, May 16, 2016). “We’re losing highly skilled, highly trained nurses,” she said. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says that more than 1,400 nursing jobs have been cut since the start of 2015, nearly 170 of them in Windsor.
May 16: During her stop in Windsor, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said long waits for hospital care and decreasing quality of care from staff are due to health-care cuts (CBC News, May 16, 2016). Horwath says the government is forcing hospitals to make decisions based on money, impacting the quality of care that nurses provide. “I’ve heard that nurses end up in tears sometimes after their shifts because they’re so frustrated with the inability to provide the kind of quality care they should be providing. Actually talking to nurses and talking to patients and getting a sense of the humanity – or the inhumanity – of what’s happening across the province is what’s very valuable to me because the numbers are one thing, but it’s real people that are being impacted.” The Ontario Nurses’ Association said right now is a hard time to be a nurse. “We’re losing highly skilled and highly trained nurses,” said Sue Sommerdyk, ONA Bargaining Unit President. “We’re seeing an erosion of patient care. We’re seeing a time where we should be seeing support and we’re getting cuts. It’s just a terrible time for nurses.” ONA and the NDP are calling for a moratorium on nursing cuts.
May 16: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says that Windsor Regional Hospital is another victim of a “silent crisis” in provincial health-care funding (Windsor Star, May 16, 2016). Horwath was at the hospital on Sunday, where she met with two patients and four nurses. She said the hospital is in a “desperate situation” with “real, serious concern about the ability to access timely and full services” and believes the Liberals have “pushed our hospitals too far” in the quest to eliminate the provincial deficit. ONA Bargaining Unit President Susan Sommerdyk joined Horwath and said, “We’re seeing an erosion in patient care. It’s a terrible time for nurses.” Sommerdyk raised similar concerns in January, when the hospital announced it was cutting 169 RNs. The province’s hospitals have cut 1,440 RNs since the beginning of 2015, and Horwath is calling for a moratorium on RN cuts. Health Minister Eric Hoskins contends his government has increased health-care spending by $1 billion. Horwath says Hoskins should be embarrassed to make that statement. “If he’s throwing an extra billion dollars in the health-care system, it’s certainly not reaching the patients,” she said.
May 13: In a letter to the editor in the Waterloo Region Record, ONA’s First Vice-President Vicki McKenna calls on the community to support nurses and speak out against cuts at Cambridge Memorial Hospital (May 13, 2016). “Despite being in the minority of Ontario hospitals that are not experiencing budget deficits, Cambridge Memorial is cutting four registered nurses from its in-patient Mental Health Unit, and reducing the registered nurse complement in the emergency department…This is happening despite clear evidence that shows for every extra patient added to an average RN’s workload, the risk to patients of suffering from complications and even death rises by seven per cent.” ONA members at the hospital have called for an Independent Assessment Committee to investigate “barriers to quality RN care in the Mental Health Unit, Medical Rehab Unit and the emergency department.” They are also trying to work with the hospital’s CEO to address areas of concern and raise the standard of care for patients but McKenna says they need help from the public. “Write or call your MPP or contact the board of directors of Cambridge Memorial Hospital and demand the quality care you need and deserve.”
May 13: NDP leader Andrea Horwath kicked off Nursing Week by calling for a moratorium on nursing cuts in Ontario’s hospitals (Shoreline Week Tecumseh, May 13, 2016). “Enough is enough,” said Horwath. “The Liberals are forcing our hospitals to make decisions based on dollars and deficits, rather than what’s best for patients. The Premier’s deep cuts to nursing care in Ontario’s hospitals must stop - now.” ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that 1,440 registered nurses have been cut since the beginning of 2015. “Registered nurses appreciate Andrea Horwath’s call for a moratorium on nursing cuts. Our acutely ill patients need more RN care, not less.”
May 12: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said she’s “shocked” to hear that nurses at Bluewater Health are planning to look for work in the U.S. (Sarnia Observer, May 12, 2016). “I don’t think 15 minutes went by over the last three hours when someone didn’t come and tell me that was their plan,” she said, following site visits in Sarnia and Petrolia to mark Nursing Week. Haslam-Stroud says the plan to seek work in another country is the fallout of repeated cuts to Bluewater Health’s budgets. Since January, 2015, 66 RNs have been cut from Bluewater. Haslam-Stroud says Nursing Week is a time to “celebrate our great profession. Unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult because the nurses are feeling that their jobs are very clearly at risk.” She says that across the province, more than 1,400 RNs have been cut since 2015. Haslam-Stroud says the Bluewater nurses were “fairly subdued. And worried. They’re worried about the care that they’re not able to provide their patients and they really don’t know where the end is going to be.” Earlier this week, ONA and the NDP called for a moratorium on RN cuts. As for Nursing Week, Haslam-Stroud notes that “our theme this year is ‘Nurses Know.’ We’re really trying to incite a level of pride in the nurses of Ontario for the great work that they’re providing each and every day.”
May 12: Quinte Health Care executives say that they are saving jobs, but ONA continues to predict the future looks bad for patients (Belleville Intelligencer, May 12, 2016). Hospital President and CEO Mary Clare Egberts announced in November the hospital had to cut $11.5 million from its upcoming budget. An “unprecedented” reorganization of staff across the corporation was developed, including the proposed slashing of 162 positions across QHC’s four sites. HR director Bree Rickets-Gaber says that through talks with unions, the corporation has managed to reduce the number of involuntary cuts by 90 per cent. Seven of nine workers still at risk are ONA members. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna is less upbeat than the executives at QHC. ONA has attacked the hospital’s interprofessional staffing model. “They still lost a tremendous amount of registered nursing hours,” she said. She predicts heavier workloads for the remaining RNs, and said research indicates that having fewer RNs at the bedside leads to more medical complications for patients. McKenna notes that in the UK, similar experiments meant “short-sighted decisions [that] ended up with longer-term costs and were detrimental to patients.”
May 10: The Lynne Martin Show (CKLW AM, May 10, 2016) heard health-care horror stories from listeners, and heard from ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna about the impact of RN cuts in our hospitals. McKenna says that RN care means shorter stays for patients as they recover more quickly. As RNs are cut, medication errors are growing and patients’ lengths of stay are extended, costing the system more. One caller said his mother, a former nurse in Windsor, brought home the stress she suffered from her job, partly because of low staffing issues. The caller now lives in Detroit and says staffing levels there are much better. This, he says, means quicker care. “You shouldn’t have to wait for a government to, a bureaucrat to allocate a bed…” he says.
May 10: Windsor Regional Hospital RNs have delivered an 11,000-signature petition to the legislature (CKLW AM, May 10, 2016). Ontario Nurses’ Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna says, “I think decisions are being made because of budgetary concerns, instead of about what patients really need. Everyone understands there is a budget, and we have to do the best we can with the dollars that we have. And we believe many of those decisions that are being made are not putting Ontarians first.”
May 10: ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says it’s “unfortunate” that RN cuts have become the trend in this province (CKLW AM, May 10, 2016). “Year over year over year, we continue to see cuts to registered nurses,” she said. McKenna notes that the research is clear: RN care means that patients do better, suffer fewer complications and stay shorter times in the hospital. Front-line nurses from Windsor Regional Hospital went to Queen’s Park to present a petition in the Ontario legislation this week. The petition calls for a reversal of the planned job cuts.
May 10: Front-line nurses are calling for a reversal of the job cuts slated for Windsor Regional Hospital (CKLW AM Windsor, May 10, 2016). The RNs converged on Queen’s Park, armed with a 10,000-signature petition, to call for an end to the cuts and for improved hospital funding. ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says there is no up side to eliminating jobs. “”What we do know from other organizations that have done similar skill mix changes…is [there is] an increase in medication errors, we’re seeing patients’ lengths of stay lengthened so therefore it costs the system more.”
May 10: Windsor nurses are finding it harder to celebrate National Nursing Week this year as many of them will lose their jobs shortly (CHWI TV Windsor, May 10, 2016). RN jobs seem to be disappearing from Ontario hospitals, they say. Local MPP Lisa Gretzky says her party is asking for a moratorium on RN cuts. While Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj was recognizing 12 RNs with awards for their dedication and commitment, he said that RNs “provide an invaluable service in care and compassion to our patients.” Windsor nurses, members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, went to Queen’s Park as Nursing Week kicked off. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna said that “research confirms and has shown that when RNs…are at the bedside, patients do better. The province is scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the ratio of RNs to the population.”
May 11: ONA Local Coordinator Debbie McCrank opened the Nursing Week festivities at Kirkland Lake hospital alongside Mayor Tony Antoniazzi (Northern Daily News, May 11, 2016). The mayor said that National Nursing Week gives “well-deserved recognition to the nursing profession, and it also gives the nurses an opportunity to get involved in activities that are fun and stress free. And that’s just about the opposite of a nurse’s typical day. It’s very demanding and very stressful…nurses are caregivers, but not solely… They’re also advocates, and they’re educators for people when they’re at their most vulnerable time of their life.” McCrank said she’d been a nurse for 40-plus years and “never regretted my choice in the profession…it’s not a real thankful job from our clients. We know they appreciate it. But this is the week that we have to say ‘thank you’ to each other…” The local nurses used the funds that they ordinarily would have spent to purchase gift bags to instead make a donation to the Red Cross for Fort McMurray fire victims.
May 9: ONA and the provincial NDP called on the government to implement a moratorium on RN cuts Tuesday during National Nursing Week (Nurses’ Newsline, May 9, 2016). At a joint media conference, ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced that Ontario hospitals have cut 1,440 RN positions, or the equivalent of three RN positions a day, since the beginning of 2015. McKenna said that “to put the total number of RN cuts in perspective, that’s 90 RNs per month gone from front-line patient care and a loss to our patients of 2.8 million hours of RN care in just 17 months.” She noted the repercussions for patients are serious. McKenna pointed out that increasing RN staffing saves the system money by lowering the rates of expensive hospital readmissions.
May 9: A petition protesting RN cuts at Windsor Regional Hospital was read at the Ontario legislature (CKLW AM, May 9, 2016). RNs from Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 8 were at Queen’s Park to witness the petition being read. ONA says that cutting 166 RN positions is the equivalent loss of 333,000 hours of hands-on RN care per year for patients.
May 9: CKLW AM Windsor (May 9, 2016) reports that registered nurses went to the legislature to hear a petition protesting job cuts at Windsor Regional Hospital read. In January, the hospital announced 166 job cuts to RNs. ONA says that front-line RNs are sending the message that the cuts must not be implemented.
May 9: ONA says that Ontario has the second-worst ratio of RNs to population in Canada, and now ONA and the NDP are calling for a moratorium on RN cuts (CFRT AM, May 9, 2016). ONA says Ontario hospitals have cut 1,440 RN positions since the start of 2015. They say this is putting patients at risk.
May 9: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna joined NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at Queen’s Park today to call for a moratorium on cuts to registered nurses (CHML AM, May 9, 2016). McKenna notes that 1,440 RN positions have been cut across Ontario since the start of last year. Horwath says that “fewer nurses mean less care for patients. And less care for patients is not something that I am prepared to accept.”
May 9: To kick off Nursing Week, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna held a media conference to call for a moratorium on RN cuts (NorthumberlandView. Ca. May 9, 2016). Horwath says that the “Liberals are forcing our hospitals to make decisions based on dollars and deficits, rather than what’s best for patients. The Premier’s deep cuts to nursing care in Ontario’s hospitals must stop – now.” McKenna told the group that 1,440 RNs have been cut from hospitals since the beginning of 2015. In 2016, Ontario is on pace to more than double the number of nurses cut compared to last year. “Nurses know that hospital RN cuts hurt our patients,” she said. “Registered nurses appreciate Andrea Horwath’s call for a moratorium on nursing cuts. Our acutely ill patients need more RN care, not less.”
May 10: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says the Ontario government should be “ashamed” about treating Scarborough and its hospitals with such disrespect (Scarborough Mirror, May 10, 2016). Last month, the province moved to support recommendations for some expensive hospital projects in Scarborough and Durham, but had previously turned its back on calls for upgrades to Scarborough hospitals. The results, she says, can be seen in the state of their emergency rooms and ORs. Also on Monday, the NDP and the Ontario Nurses’ Association called for a moratorium on RN cuts in the province’s hospitals. The Ontario Health Coalition last month charged that hospital budget cuts have led to overcrowded ERs, cancelled surgeries, patients being discharged too early, infections and other issues.
May 10: RNs protesting massive job cuts at Windsor Regional Hospital delivered a petition to the legislature Monday that demands putting the “province-wide brakes” on RN layoffs (Windsor Star, May 10, 2016). ONA VP Karen Bertrand said “we need more funding, we need hospitals to be funded appropriately.” The hospital announced in January it was cutting 169 RNs and hiring 80 RPNs to partially offset the cuts. ONA says that 1,440 RNs have been cut in the last 16 months from hospitals in Ontario. ONA and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath held a media conference to call for a moratorium on RN cuts, and MPP Lisa Gretzky later presented the Windsor petition to the legislature. Horwath says that “we’re hearing horror stories in communities where these cuts are occurring.” Nurses are suffering “epic” levels of stress as their patients are released from hospital too soon.
May 9: Front-line Windsor nurses have converged on Queen’s Park to call for a reversal of RN job cuts (CKLW Windsor, May 9, 2016). ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna said the nurses presented petitions with more than 10,000 signatures in the legislature. “Windsor Regional Hospital in particular has suffered just massive cuts to their registered nurses there,” said McKenna. As for whether the petitions will have an impact, McKenna says “that’s yet to be seen. There’s always hope. Since 2015, we’ve had over 1,400 registered nurse cuts…across the province.” McKenna says the research is really clear about the value of having RNs at the bedside. “The patients do better. They suffer fewer complications. And they stay shorter times in the hospitals.” She urges government to make decisions based on what patients need, not budgetary concerns.
May 8: Chronic underfunding is taking a toll on Orillia’s hospital (Orillia Today, May 8, 2016). The Ontario Health Coalition says the future is undoubtedly ‘bleak’ for the hospital if chronic underfunding continues. Natalie Mehra says “a hospital that has more patients than it’s funded for, that is understaffed and overcrowded, in which care levels continually go down” is what the future holds. Her comments come following the announcement of 16 bed closures as a result of a $5.9-million shortfall, and 35 full-time job cuts. Ontario Nurses’ Association First VP Vicki McKenna says seven RNs will be cut, and “once again, this is short-sighted budget cutting on the backs of patients. This is a loss of a tremendous amount of care to that community, to that hospital.”
May 5: An Ontario Health Coalition town hall meeting in the Sault brought out people’s fears of further privatization and the recounting of horror stories (Sault Star, May 5, 2016). Sault coalition chair Margo Dale said she “can’t put up with this health-care system” and is “sick of the rhetoric” coming from Queen’s Park. A number of other speakers echoed her remarks, including OHC executive director Natalie Mehra, who said “by every reasonable measure,” hospitals have been underfunded and cut services more than any other “comparable jurisdiction.” ONA Local president Glenda Hubley said front-line employees at Sault Area Hospital are doing their best amid extreme pressure, but are finding it sometimes impossible to provide optimum care to everyone. She notes that 100,000 nursing care hours have been slashed at SAH thanks to a “health-care system driven by dollars.” Hubley drew applause when she said that “hospitals should never cut at the bedside.”
April 29: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says the Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital will cut another seven RNs (Orillia Today, April 29, 2016). Provincial VP Vicki McKenna says that “once again, this is a short-sighted budget cutting on the backs of patients. This is a loss of a tremendous amount of care to that community, to that hospital.” The impending closure of the hospital’s complex continuing care unit “is going to lay off seven full-time RNs and four part-time RNs, and one nurse practitioner,” said McKenna. “Every full-time position, it’s just shy of 2,000 hours of RN care.” Since January, about 800 RNs have been cut from hospitals across Ontario. “Budgets are tight, we all get that,” said McKenna. “But cuts at the front-line like this have to stop.”
April 22: An independent panel of nursing experts has heard the concerns of RNs working in Humber River Hospital’s Hemodialysis unit (Yahoo Finance, April 22, 2016). The “IAC” panel hearing was held April 20 to 22 after repeated delays by the employer. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that, “Registered nurses are so concerned with poor RN staffing in the Hemodialysis unit and management’s failure to act on their written concerns that they have been forced to again call in the expert panel. When the hospital’s new private-public partnership building opened, RN staffing was decreased. While the hospital is now housed in a shiny new building, the fact is that there are not enough RNs on staff to safely care for patients.”
April 26: The cuts to RNs scheduled to occur in June are already being felt at Windsor hospitals (CBEW FM, April 26, 2016). ONA local executive Susan Sommerdyk says that the mood among staff has hit a low point. “..it’s been horrendous,” she said. “We still don’t know what the staffing ratios are going to be for the new floors…people are afraid to move jobs because they’re afraid that if I move from my part-time job to a full-time job, then I’ll get laid off.” Sommerdyk says some nurses have just quit as some “say this isn’t worth the stress and concern…” The hospital is not replacing those nurses so the impact of fewer nurses is already being felt.
April 26: RNs at Providence Care have voted to be represented by ONA (labour-reporter.com, April 26, 2016). Approximately 230 nurses will be affected by the decision. ONA represents 60,000 RNs and allied health professionals throughout the province.
April 22: RNs working for Providence Care-St. Mary’s of the Lake and Mental Health Services have voted convincingly to make ONA their union (Nurses’ Newsline, April 22, 2016). “As a union of nurses working for nurses, we are highly focused on ensuring our members have workplaces that support their goal of providing safe, quality patient care,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. She says that ONA is proud of the professional campaign it ran. “I am also very proud of the services, support and successes that ONA has achieved for our skilled and dedicated front-line RNs. As RNs, we know that safe staffing levels, safe workplaces and excellent patient care are what every nurse wants…”
April 22: CFLY FM Kingston (April 22, 2016) reports that the votes have been tallied from hospital workers at St. Mary’s of the Lake and Providence Care. OPSEU lost the vote with nurses, who have decided to join the Ontario Nurses’ Association.
April 25: Healthcare workers and community activists are trying to raise province-wide awareness about cuts to provincial hospital funding (CBC News, April 25, 2016). The Ontario Health Coalition is holding a campaign in communities across Ontario, including Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor, Sudbury and Guelph. They are distributing ballots to businesses, workplaces and community centres and asking people if they’re for or against stopping cuts to community hospitals and the restoration of services, funding and staff to meet the need for care. ONA member Donna Dillon, of Ottawa, says that “I’ve been doing hemodialysis for six years and I was in the cardiac area for 20 years in the dialysis area…there was a change about three years ago where the ratio of patient care was increased per nurse. Since then we’ve seen adjustments as best we can to handle that extra work for the nurses, with less nurses…we need the support to be able to leave the job not exhausted and try to give the best care that we can for our patients.”
April 25: ONA Bargaining Unit President Susan Sommerdyk says that morale among members has nosedived as cuts to RNs are set to begin in June (CBC News Windsor, April 25, 2016). Windsor Regional Hospital announced in January that it would cut 166 RN positions and would hire 80 new RPNs. Speaking at an event protesting hospital funding cuts, Sommerdyk said “it’s been horrendous. It’s not a great atmosphere, morale is very, very low.” She said some RNs have quit and the loss of staff may be deeper than the cuts themselves.
April 25: Aimed at pressuring the Ontario government to stop 166 RN cuts at Windsor Hospital and ending cuts to health care, the Windsor Health Coalition has launched its referendum campaign (Windsor Star, April 25, 2016). Chair Ken Lewenza said the group is calling on the Premier to “listen to regular Ontarians who do not want to see any more hospital cuts.” He says that nine years of cuts in “real funding” have left Ontario near the bottom in per-capita funding for hospitals. ONA Bargaining Unit President Susan Sommerdyk says the situation at Windsor Regional Hospital has been “horrendous” for staff and led to less time for nurses to provide patient care. RNs are being replaced by lower-paid RPNs, and with schedules posted eight weeks in advance, the RN cuts expected in June are starting to appear. “They have holes in the schedules because they’re not sure who’s going into these positions,” she said. “We still don’t know what the staffing ratios are going to be…” She adds that as people leave their jobs, they aren’t being replaced, leaving heavy workloads and increased patient wait times.
April 25: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that a few years ago, the province passed a bill about First Responders Day that included nurses (CFRA AM Ottawa, April 25, 2016). Now, the province has excluded nurses from new legislation that recognizes PTSD as a workplace illness for first responders. As McKenna notes, nurses are the first ones on the scene in hospitals, witness an array of traumatic events “as long as my arm,” and they’re exposed to trauma for extended periods of time. McKenna said the PTSD legislation in Manitoba should be the model for Ontario; it recognizes all workers.
April 23: Nurses currently working at Providence Care Mental Health Services and St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital have chosen to be represented by the Ontario Nurses’ Association (Kingston Whig-Standard, April 23, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says “ONA is delighted to welcome the Province Mental Health Services RNs to join with the St. Mary’s of the Lake RNs in ONA…nurses know the issues facing our profession and what they mean to patients. As a union of nurses working for nurses, we are highly focused on ensuring our members have workplaces that support their goal of providing safe, quality patient care.”
April 25: Forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford has written a letter in support of the Ontario Nurses’ Association position that nurses must be included under new PTSD legislation (Ottawa Sun, April 25, 2016). He says it makes “absolutely no sense” to exclude nurses, and that to “split first responders and nurses is madness.” Bradford argues that nurses who work in mental health aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable; so are those who work in general hospitals. “Everyone we see has done horrible things,” he said. “We try to compartmentalize that in our minds when we help patients therapeutically. But this kind of compartmentalization can make you very vulnerable to PTSD.”
April 25: The Ottawa Citizen (April 25, 2016) reports on the exclusion of nurses from the provincial government’s PTSD legislation. ONA Health & Safety expert Erna Bujna says that 6,400 incidents of violence against nurses were reported in the province’s hospitals in 2015. Yet nurses seeking WSIB benefits for PTSD must prove their condition is related to their workplace. Bujna told the province’s standing committee on social policy that “nurses should not have to continually relive these horrific and traumatic events to prove entitlements to WSIB benefits. She says her personal opinion of why government has left nurses out of the legislation is that, “government is trying to control the number of allowed WSIB claims so health-care employers won’t have to take responsibility for preventing the illnesses, and [it] keeps their WSIB costs down.” She also believes there is greater focus on male-dominated professions. Bujna adds that “there is no question our nurses are also first responders, and in our female-dominated health-care workplaces, they experience and witness as much – if not more – traumatic events than the men in their male-dominated workplaces that were covered by this law.”
April: ONA has “blasted” Guelph General Hospital for insufficiently protecting its nurses and patients (Canadian OH&S Canada, April 2016). ONA has filed a grievance against the hospital, spurred by several recent attacks. ONA VP Anne Clark says in one case, an RN was grabbed by a patient and could not call for help. “Before anybody could come to her assistance, a full bottle of urine was thrown in her face, which splashed into her mouth and eyes, and she was bitten.” In addition, Clark says that in this day and age, “hospitals should be equipped” to deal with another situation in which a patient who had been contaminated arrived in the ER, which lacked the proper bay and personal protective equipment to decontaminate him. Clark says the recent incidents are part of an escalating pattern showing a lack of concern for safety and hygiene. She wants Guelph General to work with ONA to find solutions.
April: OH&S Canada (April 2016) reports that Ontario has become the latest province to make PTSD a presumptively occupational disease. However, one of the few dissenting voices about the presumption law has been the Ontario Nurses’ Association. ONA says it is outraged about the exclusion of RNs. “Our heroic nurses are witness to and experience a wide array of critical and traumatizing events,” said First VP Vicki McKenna. “Registered nurses are in every sense first responders…[who] are sent into harm’s way on a regular basis.”
April 18: Registered nurses from St. Mary’s of the Lake and Providence Care Hospital will be choosing their “unified union” this week (Kingston Whig-Standard, April 18, 2016). RNs will vote this Tuesday through Thursday. OPSEU wants RNs to choose them. OPSEU already represents the majority of RNs at the mental health hospital. ONA represents about 80 RNs at St. Mary’s on the Lake. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that ONA is the “largest nursing union in Canada and for the most part, we solely represent registered nurses…it’s nurses representing nurses.” OPSEU has an array of workers in its unions, and President Smokey Thomas said this is a strength.
April 14: Queen’s Park will have to develop its own laws and regulations around medically assisted death now that the federal government has introduced its own legislation (Queen’s Park Briefing, April 14, 2016). Health Minister Eric Hoskins says, “Our job is to make sure that we balance the rights respecting our physicians and other health-care providers, but at the same time providing access.” The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that clear guidelines from the province are needed. “We expect that in some cases, we will be asked to assist,” said ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna. “We need the government – and the regulator, the College of Nurses of Ontario – to issue clear policies and/or nursing standards regarding the scope of a nurse’s role.”
April 15: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud is meeting with nurses from the mental health facility at Providence Care to persuade them to vote to join the organization (Kingston Whig-Standard, April 15, 2016). ONA currently represents about 80 RNs at St. Mary’s of the Lake, but next week, nurses there and at the mental health site are to decide which union they wish to join. Roughly 120 nurses at the mental health hospital are represented currently by OPSEU, but the Ministry of Labour requires a vote as the two facilities are being merged. Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is Canada’s largest nurses’ union and “for the most part, we solely represent registered nurses…it’s nurses representing nurses.” The report notes that ONA has won similar votes in other hospitals where different services have been merged. In the past, ONA has advocated for nurses who are experiencing heavy workloads due to staffing cuts, workplace violence and the exclusion of nurses from new legislation making PTSD a workplace illness. Haslam-Stroud also says that “violence and mental health is one of our number-one priorities right now, and of course the RNs at Providence, at the mental health facility, are dealing with that type of issue each and every day.” ONA provides support for nurses called before the College of Nurses of Ontario and during malpractice lawsuits.
April 13: An opinion editorial in the Lakeshore Advance (April 13, 2016) says that front-line RNs have been excluded from coverage under Bill 163, and “that can’t be okay.” ONA is calling for the immediate inclusion of all nurses, notes the piece, and “so they should.” As ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna explains, in the course of their working lives, nurses are witness to and experience a wide array of critical and traumatizing events. They are in every sense first responders. McKenna says that “in every sector of health care, front-line caregivers experience violence, trauma and events that can trigger PTSD…” patients who have been in horrible car accidents, house fires, gunshot victims, hemorrhaging or patients burned beyond recognition. Nurses also faced SARS and life-threatening outbreaks, deal with patient homicides and suicides, cope with assault…She notes that of the 10 occupations reporting the highest incidence of workplace violence, four are health-care-related. The editorial says their exclusion from the bill “has to be an oversight” and the newspaper assumes the minister will “see the failure in this mistake.”
April 13: ONA’s Bluewater Health Bargaining Unit President Tracy Steadman says that the hospital’s nurses are thinly stretched and overworked, and that several nurses are now considering employment in the U.S. (Sarnia Observer, April 13, 2016). More than 60 RN cuts at Bluewater have resulted in accumulated burnout and fear among the Ontario Nurses’ Association members who fear their jobs could cut be next. “It’s hard to fight for your patient when you’re also worried about your job at the hospital,” said one RN. ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says there were 18 RN cuts this year at Bluewater Health, meaning a total reduction of 120,000 hours of RN care a year since last year. Across the province, more than 500 RN positions have been cut so far this year, says ONA, because of “belt-tightening” in the wake of funding reforms from the health ministry. One community member at the Ontario Health Coalition meeting suggested that nurses “get tough. Stop working those long hours.” McKenna explained that nurses won’t withdraw their care from patients as there is a nursing college standard that does not allow this. “We have to figure out something that does not impact…patients.”
April 11: The bill that makes PTSD a workplace illness for first responders has been called biased (CKWS TV Kingston, April 11, 2016). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says it is appalling that the bill fails to include front-line nurses as first responders. ONA is urging the premier to amend the legislation to be more inclusive.
April 7: Vicki McKenna, First Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says that nurses working in Ontario hospitals are all expecting another round of nursing cuts this year (CFPL AM London, April 7, 2016). Nurses “feel, of course…that the budgets are being balanced on their backs. But more importantly than that…it’s about patient care.” McKenna says there are fewer and fewer RNs on the front lines and workloads are rising, so nurses are “finding it more and more difficult to care for people in the way they believe that they should, and in maintaining the standards…” She adds that for nurses, who are currently in bargaining for a new contract, their biggest concern is their workloads. “The priority is that there’s enough of them, and that they’re able to care for patients properly.”
April 7: NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo says the legislation for first responders that makes PTSD a workplace illness does not go far enough (CFMJ Toronto, April 7, 2016). The report notes that the Ontario Nurses’ Association’s 60,000-strong membership has been left out of the coverage for PTSD, but DiNovo says she would like to see it extended. She also notes that Manitoba has extended its PTSD legislation to all workers.
April 7: CHOK FM Sarnia (April 7, 2016) reports that Bluewater Health is “overcrowded and overburdened,” and the Sarnia-Lambton Health Coalition is holding a town hall to inform the community. Shirley Roebuck, chair of the local coalition, says “there is inadequate funding to ensure that hospitals can continue to do excellent work.” ONA says that 66,000 hours of front-line nursing care were cut at Bluewater Health last year, and the Petrolia endoscopy unit was closed. Roebuck believes the last round of funding cuts means there will be severe downsizing, job losses, declining service and in some cases, hospital closures.
April 7: CTV News London (April 7, 2016) reports that new legislation that says PTSD is a workplace illness for first responders is getting mixed reaction. The new law applies to police, firefighters, EMS, correctional workers and First Nation emergency personnel, but not nurses. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna is shocked by the omission. “Nurses do have a prevalence for PTSD diagnoses,” she said. “We have nurses who work in incredibly stressful situations each and every day, and coupled with that, the violent incidents that happen in our hospitals.” She says she hopes nurses will be included in the legislation sooner rather than later.
April 10: CBC.CA News (April 10, 2016) says that new PTSD legislation in Ontario is inconsistent for first responders. Vancouver-based labour lawyer Sarah O’Leary goes as far as to call it inhumane in BC, noting that those with PTSD are subjected to compensation board investigators digging around their personal lives to find stressors that aren’t work-related. O’Leary says that for a nurse who has had 13 children, for instance, “who died on you in one summer and the last one that occurs, you just crack, and a psychologist or a psychiatrist says, ‘it has been too much for her and she’s got PTSD and she needs some treatment,’ you shouldn’t have to prove that there’s nothing else going on in your life.” Ontario’s legislation has made PTSD a workplace illness for firefighters, police and paramedics, but excluded nurses. ONA VP Vicki McKenna says that nurses were “shocked and disappointed” that the legislation does not include nurses. “We have [PTSD] cases under appeal now that have taken a decade.” On Friday, the RNAO penned an open letter to the Premier calling for the government to “fix its mistake” and immediately add nurses to the legislation.
April 11: ONA says its members should have been included in the professions covered under the Supporting Ontario’s First Responders Act (Kirkland Lake Northern Daily News, April 11, 2016). Labour Ministry spokesman Craig MacBride said Bill 163 responds to the needs of those who need it most – first responders. However, ONA argues that its members also experience the traumas that police and firefighters do when survivors are brought to hospital. Nurses also go out and work in the field. ONA’s Vicki McKenna says that nurses “run into situations, they don’t run away from them. We have nurses that go into people’s homes, we have nurses working on the street, working along with police and paramedic teams…” Nurses in long-term care homes have entered rooms to find a homicide has occurred, and those in ERs constantly deal with victims of violence and horrible accidents.
April 9: An opinion editorial in the Ottawa Sun (April 9, 2016) says that though MPPs “got it right this week” when they passed PTSD legislation, there’s more work to be done. The legislation recognizes PTSD as a workplace illness for first responders. While police, paramedics and firefighters are covered, the editorial argues that nurses should also be on the list. They are so often “the unsung heroes of our health-care system.” The legislation should cover all nurses, not just those working in correctional institutions. Nurses are often first responders, and their jobs are highly stressful. The editorial asks when the last time was that you saw a specialist in the corridor of a hospital at 2 am. As Vicki McKenna from the Ontario Nurses’ Association says, “nurses walk into situations, or run into situations; they don’t run away from them.” Anyone who’s ever known a nurse or even been in a hospital knows the truth of this, says the piece. “We put our lives in nurses’ hands, just as we do with paramedics. The least we can do is reach out to them, and acknowledge the hard and vital work they do.”
March 23: Quinte Health Care's (QHC) Sunshine List will almost double because of an extra pay period in 2015 (The Belleville Intelligencer, March 23, 2016). Board treasurer Karen Baker says that while QHC's list for 2015 should have included just 69 people, the extra pay period has brought the total up to 102, including 45 registered nurses. There were just 19 RNs on the 2014 list. Baker also says that the hospital "has no control" over pay increases that are part of union contracts and that overtime also affects the list. RNs at QHC are members of ONA, and Baker says that the ONA contract "requires that the most senior RNs be provided overtime first...When you do incur that overtime, oftentimes it’s at the higher end of the salaries.”
March 19: In a letter to the editor in the London Free Press, a London-area RPN who "works alongside many great registered nurses" says that RPNs are feeling "battered" by ONA speaking out against hospitals cutting RNs and replacing them with RPNs (March 19, 2016). She says that while ONA should fight for its members' jobs, the "true issue here is about funding, not RN vs. RPN."
March 19: The Ontario Nurses' Association has launched a grievance against the Guelph General Hospital for failing to protect its nurses (Guelph Tribune, March 19, 2016). “Guelph General Hospital has flouted the laws around workplace safety meant to protect not only our dedicated registered nurses, but our patients and their families as well,” says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. In one incident a registered nurse was violently assaulted by a patient who bit, punched and kicked her and threw urine in her face. Haslam-Stroud says that "help was not readily available to the RN" adding that the hospital also failed in its response after the assault. “Not only did the hospital subsequently fail to inform the proper individuals, its Joint Health and Safety Committee and ONA until a full five days after the incident, but the failure to communicate resulted in the same patient assaulting a family member two days later.” Hospital president and CEO Marianne Walker says she is "very surprised" that ONA has made these concerns public, adding that the hospital recently completed a security audit and has made "a lot of changes" to improve security.
March 17: Nurses at Soldiers' Memorial Hospital fear job cuts as the hospital tries to bridge a $5-million funding gap (Orillia Today, March 17, 2016). “That cloud hangs over the work force,” says ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna. “It is the unknown.” Budget deliberations are ongoing, and spokesperson Terry Dyni says the board will consider “all other available options before determining whether or not staffing changes are required.” Officials will know by the end of the month what will need to be done to balance the books. Meanwhile, McKenna says that nurses are already feeling the pressure in some units where staff are bearing the burden of larger overtime workloads "because they are not filling vacant positions."
March 17: ONA has filed a grievance to try and push Guelph General Hospital into implementing increased workplace safety measures including immediate mandatory violence-prevention training, a system for flagging violent patients, and panic buttons for all nurses (Toronto Sun, March 17, 2016). The union says the hospital's security remains insufficient after a registered nurse was violently attacked by a patient. “Guelph General Hospital has flouted the laws around workplace safety meant to protect not only our dedicated registered nurses, but our patients and their families as well,” says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. Hospital CEO Marianne Walker says she is surprised that the union has gone public with its concerns rather than continuing to "work together" to resolve them.
March 18: "Help was not readily available" to a registered nurse at Guelph General Hospital who was violently attacked by a patient (cbc.ca, March 18, 2016). “This veteran RN had to be treated for a laceration and a deep bite, had to have blood tests for HIV and hepatitis, and is on antibiotics after the urine splashed in her eyes, nose and mouth.” ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the hospital failed to alert the proper individuals including the unions and the hospital's joint health and safety committee in a timely manner following the attack. "The failure to communicate resulted in the same patient assaulting a family member two days later.” ONA has filed a grievance against the hospital, a move that "surprised" hospital president and CEO Marianne Walker. "We take patient safety and staff safety very seriously...One of our strategic goals is to reduce staff harm and to become one of the safest hospitals in Ontario. We know that this is a journey, that there’s lots still to do.”
March 17: About 100 Cobourg residents attended a hospital town hall meeting on job cuts and other issues at the Northumberland Hills Hospital (Northumberland News, March 17, 2016). The Ontario Health Coalition-organized meeting was held March 12. Among the featured speakers was Ontario Nurses’ Association VP Anne Clark. Clark says that ONA has been raising the alarm about hospital under-funding for the last four years. She said, “this year’s Ontario budget provided a very small amount, a third of one per cent…to hospital budgets. So that’s $60 million for 150 hospitals who had funding frozen for four years.” Clark added that “hospital CEOs who tell you that registered nurse cuts will not affect patient care are not being truthful. The cuts directly affect our patients.”
March 16: Unifor Local 27 VP Ann Marie Tulett believes that when ONA campaigns against the replacement of RNs with RPNs, it's "serving its own interests, not that of patients" (Windsor Star, London Free Press, March 16, 2016). "We are all professionals, we are all nurses," said Tulett. Her comments come as four years of budget freezes have left hospitals cash strapped and making cuts. ONA estimates that hospitals have replaced or plan to replace hundreds of RNs, including some in Victoria Hospital's ER. However, ONA Vice-President Anne Clark says the issue is "not a union issue. It's a patient safety issue." She notes that the fact is that RPNs are not licensed to care for more complex and unstable patients, precisely the type of patients who are taking up more and more hospital beds. RNs and RPNs are both regulated nurses, but there is a difference. RPNs earn a two-year diploma, RNs "of a recent vintage" need four-year university degrees, with veteran RNs having two-or three-year diplomas. If a patient's health needs are too complex or their risks increase, RPNs must seek an RN to intervene. Clark says it's unfair to ask an RPN to care for a complex patient whose condition is not stable. The two agree that the bigger threat to patients is the fiscal straightjacket that the Ontario government has put on hospitals. Clark says the system "needs more of all of us."
March 14: A letter to the editor of the Hamilton Spectator (March 14, 2016) from Jill Matthews says that Linda Haslam-Stroud has failed to mention that more than half of RNs do not have university degrees, but are diploma-educated like RPNs. If specialized areas require RNs because they are university-trained, she writes, St. Joe's should consider removing diploma-trained RNs from these areas. She adds that the continuous "RN/RPN rhetoric in the media serves no purpose other than to create a "turf war" and mislead the public into believing that only RNs provide quality care." Both categories of nurses are registered with the College of Nurses of Ontario.
March 10: St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton has "pulled back" layoff notices for RNs (CKPC FM, March 10, 2016). The four specialized neonatal RNs were to be replaced with RPNs.
March 10: Hamilton's St. Joseph's Health Care has rescinded the layoff notices for four neonatal ICU RNs (CHML AM, March 10, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the hospital would need to provide another five months' notice for future layoffs. The RNAO says it is prepared to take legal action if the hospital decides to continue with the cuts.
March 10: St. Joseph's Healthcare has rescinded layoff notices to four neonatal RNs after public outcry pressured the hospital to review a cost-cutting plan that would replace them with lower-paid RPNs (Hamilton Spectator, March 10, 2016). The hospital announced on Tuesday that it would "pause and reassess" the plan to add RPNs to its Level 2 neonatal ICU. Both ONA and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario raised concerns about the plan. “This is nothing about RPNs and their great competencies and capabilities to care for patients,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. “It is not appropriate for RPNs to be in a NICU.” A hospital statement issued Wednesday said St. Joes would rescind the notice to ONA "while we review the decision in this area." “We’re taking that to the bank,” says Haslam-Stroud. “They would have to give us another five months notice of any future layoffs and I don’t believe it will happen...The positive thing for our little babies is that we are going to have the appropriate care provider.”
March 9: St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton has agreed to reassess cost-cutting plans to replace some RNs working in its neonatal ICU with less expensive RPNs (Hamilton News, March 9, 2016). The hospital came under fire for the plan from ONA and the public.
March 9: The Northumberland Chapter of the OHC is hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss what's on the "chopping block" at Northumberland Hills Hospital (NorthumberlandToday.com, March 9, 2016). Local OHC co-chairs say that there will be a petition to sign when the meeting is held this Saturday. Restructuring plans at NHH include nursing cuts in the ER, medical and surgical units, cuts to laboratory services, housekeeping and clerical and cuts to palliative care. The Ontario Nurses' Association says that 28 RNs will be impacted by the cuts; Vice-President Vicki McKenna said that combining the restorative and palliative care units may look good on paper but the logistics in assigning staff to patients doesn't take into account the required bedside care while opening and closing ward doors, working around walls, and other issues on the units. She notes that research has shown that merged units and fewer staff leave nurses to care for more patients. For every RN cut, workloads go up and so do patient complications and even death.
March 9: St. Joseph's Healthcare is reassessing a cost-cutting plan to have lower-paid and less-educated nurses look after premature babies in a special care nursery (Hamilton Spectator, March 9, 2016). Winnie Doyle, VP of clinical services and the hospital's chief nursing executive said "in relation to some issues that have come forward, we have listened and are pausing. We will review and see if there is anything we've missed or haven't taken into account and we'll make a decision." CEO Kevin Smith says, "obviously there have been strong reactions." The Ontario Nurses' Association and the RNAO each raised concerns about the plan. RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun said, "we have to put a stop to things that are simply dangerous to patients." She says the RNAO took its concerns straight to the Ministry of Health. "It shocks me [that] a nurse leader would support this or the CEO...babies who need to be in a neonatal intensive care unit are very fragile. They can change in a minute. They can aspirate while feeding. They can have cardiac arrest." When informed of the plan to replace some specialty trained RNs with RPNs, the RPNAO said it was appropriate to do so as long as there is "a lower level of acuity with more predictable outcomes." ONA says there is no guarantee there will be enough stable babies at any one time and points out that the infants' conditions can rapidly change. A final decision is expected by April 1.
March 4: The President of the Ontario Nurses Association Linda Haslam-Stroud says plans by St. Joseph’s Health Care in Hamilton to replace four neonatal intensive care specialized RNs with RPNs are absolutely ridiculous (CKPC-FM, March 4, 2016). Hospital-wide, 38 RPNs will be hired as 60 RN jobs are eliminated by the hospital to help cut costs by $26 million. The hospital says the RPNs have a level of competency.
March 4: The decision to replace RNs with RPNs in the ICU neonatal unit at St. Joseph’s Health Care in Hamilton – the first hospital in the province to do so – is “ludicrous,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud (CHML AM, March 4, 2016). Neonatal patients should not be put at risk because they are already vulnerable and their conditions are not predictable, she added. The changes take effect in July.
March 8: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has written a letter to the editor of the Midland Mirror, stating that changes to Georgian Bay General Hospital (GBGH) will adversely impact the quality of care for local residents (March 8, 2016). The Local Health Integration Network recently funded a study that made 108 recommendations, but the hospital RNs are extremely alarmed that some of those changes would cause increased suffering, and even death, to patients, Haslam-Stroud states. As well, many of the recommendations fail to take into account the patient population that is serviced by GBGH, a rural hospital with a diverse population. “If these recommendations are implemented, Midland-and-area residents will be ill-served by GBGH, will face long travels to other hospitals, which are also over-capacity, and will see the eventual transformation of a vibrant rural hospital into merely a Band-Aid station before patients are sent to Orillia, Barrie or Toronto,” she adds, urging residents to speak out now to preserve care.
March 5: Hamilton Health Sciences is eliminating nearly 100 full-time jobs to cut $30 million from its budget (Hamilton Spectator, March 5, 2016). CUPE Local 7800 president Dave Murphy said, "There is no room for any type of cuts like this. They're well past the bone. I don't know where they can make these cuts and still provide a level of patient care that is required." The hospital says it is not trying to save money by replacing RNs with RPNs. The Ontario Nurses' Association says that just a "very small number" of the impacted job cuts are to RNs.
March 3: NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says funding shortages in health care are forcing nurses to do work beyond the scope of their training (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, March 3, 2016). She visited members of the Ontario Nurses' Association in London and said RNs are being replaced with RPNs, which is "hurting patient care." RPNs are increasingly being asked to do work they were never trained for, and "that puts them in a very vulnerable position because it's not something that they're allowed to do in terms of their license. And so there are issues around not only whether that's the appropriate level of care for the patients, but also what that means in terms of the RPNs themselves."
March 3: Essex County council has ratified a new agreement with the 14 nurses working at Sun Parlor Long-Term Care Home (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, March 3, 2016). The ONA members have been in negotiations with the city and were without a contract for two years.
March 3: ONA members working at the Sun Parlor Home in Leamington "almost" have a new contract in place (CFCO Radio Chatham, March 3, 2016). County Warden Tom Bain says the new agreement is now with ONA and "they'll be looking at it."
March 5: A letter to the editor of the London Free Press (March 5, 2016) from ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the provincial budget contains a modest increase in funding for Ontario hospitals, and she believes that it is time for London Health Sciences Centre to rescind its latest round of RN cuts. The hospital is the lead trauma centre for the region and specializes in acute mental health services, oncology services, neurological services, critical care, medicine, cardiology and general surgery. Its mental health patients are most vulnerable when they enter the ER. RNs possess the critical thinking, skills, knowledge and judgement needed to best ensure patients receive safe, quality care. These facts "can't be ignored," she writes, and "a budget deficit does not and should not change the quality of care our patients deserve." With extra funding, it is imperative LHSC act now to stop the cuts.
March 3: Essex County council has ratified a new contract with Ontario Nurses' Association members working at the Sun Parlour Home for Senior Citizens in Leamington (CBC News, March 3, 2016). The 14 nurses are yet to ratify the agreement; they were without a contract for two years.
March 3: A letter to the editor of our Midland.ca (March 3, 2016) from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud warns Midland residents of the proposed changes to Georgian Bay General Hospital that will adversely impact their quality of care. She writes that the 108 recommendations in a consultant's study, if implemented, would mean an increased risk of suffering and even death for patients. Changes would devastate local care, a charge backed up by a staff physician in his submission to the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN. Haslam-Stroud writes that it is "revealing" that many of the recommendations utterly fail to take into account the patient population served by the hospital. GBGH is a rural hospital with a diverse population, many of whom are low socioeconomically, suffer mental health issues or come from nearby communities with large First Nations populations. If the recommendations are implemented, the hospital will become little more than a band-aid station where patients are sent before being transferred to Orillia, Barrie or Toronto for care. Haslam-Stroud urges the residents to speak out now to preserve their health care.
March 2: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that RN cuts at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton are wide ranging (CHML AM, March 2, 2016). Hundreds of people joined Haslam-Stroud and ONA members at a rally outside the hospital. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath joined the protest, and said that patients are being discharged before they should be, only to return weeks later.
March 2: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud told CHML News (March 2, 2016) that St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton is "cutting RNs in our neonatal ICU, they're cutting them from our nephrology patients that are on peritoneal and hemodialysis that are very sick patients. They're cutting them on the medical units. And on the surgical units." Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath joined hundreds of nurses and supporters alongside Haslam-Stroud to protest inadequate hospital funding that is resulting in hundreds of RN cuts.
March 2: CTV News (March 2, 2016) reports that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in London to meet with ONA members. Horwath heard concerns about the province's cuts to health care from the nurses. Among the many issues was concern about the lack of beds, the reduction of RNs, safety concerns for RNs and patients, and the growing demand for mental health supports. Horwath says that the "government has been cutting back on health-care funding for years now...I don't think anybody in London particularly needs to know or needs to be told that the health-care system is falling apart."
March 4: St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton is believed to be the first Ontario hospital to replace some of its specialized nurses caring for sick and premature babies with lower-paid, less-educated staff (Hamilton Spectator, March 4, 2016). It will cut four RNs certified in neonatal intensive care and replace them this July with four RPNs who are not certified in this specialty but considered by the hospital to "have a high level of competence." ONA has raised concerns with this and other changes. The hospital is hiring 38 RPNs and cutting more than 60 RNs to cut costs. ONA says it's concerned about all the cuts, but the change to the NICU is the biggest worry. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the change is "absolutely ludicrous. Our neonates should not be put at risk. They are already vulnerable and are not stable and predictable." Provincial regulations say that RPNs can work with stable and predictable patients; RNs care for sicker and more complex patients. RNs have a university degree while RPNs have college diplomas. RPNAO Executive Director Dianne Martin says that RPNs are "nurses in every sense of the word....the patients best suited to care by RPN are those in a lower level of acuity with more predictable outcomes..." ONA Local 75's Donna Bain says she is very worried about the fluctuating level of RNs in the NICU. "We're blazing the trail" with the changes, she said, "but we're not given evidence to say, 'this is what is working'." ONA points out that similar experiments have not always gone well. Concerns about endoscopy having too many unstable patients has recently resulted in St. Joe's going back to a plan to staff the unit solely with RNs.
March 3: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath met with nurses and their union to hear concerns about how Liberal cuts to health care have eroded quality (London Free Press, March 3, 2016). Horwath says the "whole system is falling apart. I can't remember a government that has so neglected health care." Nurses told the NDP Leader that there are too few hospital beds, too many cuts to registered nurses and too little support for people with mental illnesses, conditions that place patients and staff at risk.
March 2: iNews 880 London (March 2, 2016) reports that a group of London nurses met with the leader of the NDP when Andrea Horwath held a roundtable discussion with members of the Ontario Nurses' Association. Horwath heard about the impact of frozen hospital budgets on front-line care. "One of the things that registered nurses talk about specifically is expanding their scope of practice," said Horwath. "They are actually trained to do so much more in the health-care system, but at this point, they're not able to perform any of those duties they're trained for because the government does not allow that scope of practice."
March 2: Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has met with Ontario Nurses' Association nurses in London (blackburnnews.com, March 2, 2016). She says the nurses expressed concerns about front-line staff cuts, a lack of beds, safety and the growing demand for mental health support. Horwath says these nurses are "very concerned about the kind of care their patients are getting and the kinds of stresses that the profession is under. Epic levels of stress, situations where patients are lined up in hallways, where nurses are concerned for their own ability to provide the necessary care." Horwath says it's time for Premier Kathleen Wynne to "actually listen to the professionals, listen to the people on the front lines, listen to the patients." Horwath will continue her discussions with nurses next week when she plans to travel to northern Ontario.
March 3: There "aren't many people sitting on the fence when it comes to the provincial government budget" (Renfrew Mercury, March 3, 2016). Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski is one of the naysayers, and he says the budget makes life harder for ordinary Ontarians. Regarding health-care funding, the Ontario Nurses' Association says the budget's "small" increase to hospital funding should be invested in front-line nurses. "We have been appalled that the government has starved our hospitals of much-needed funding over the past four years and look forward to the new hospital funding improving the quality of care for Ontarians," said President Linda Haslam-Stroud. ONA did praise the government's commitment of $85 million to attract more and better compensate nurse practitioners.
March 1: CHML 900 (March 1, 2016) reports that RNs have the provincial government "in their cross-hairs." Hundreds attended a rally in front of St. Joseph's Healthcare to protest RN cuts. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said the St. Joe's cuts are wide-ranging, from the neonatal intensive care unit to the medical and surgical units. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says "we're seeing a revolving door system, where patients are being discharged before they need to be or they should be, and they're coming back a couple of weeks later."
March 1: About 200 RNs held a noon-hour rally in front of St. Joseph's Healthcare to protest ongoing RN cuts (CHCH TV, March 1, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, "What we're hoping for is that the patients are going to understand that the gutting of RN positions is going to actually negatively impact their care. For every patient added to our workload, my patients' death and disease rates will increase by seven per cent." She urges the public to sign a petition to end the cuts, which will then be delivered by MPP Ted McMeekin. ONA says 400 RN positions have been cut from Ontario hospitals this year.
March 1: CHCH TV (March 1, 2016) reports that the Ontario Nurses' Association has seen a total of more than 400 RNs cut from provincial hospitals this year alone. RNs and supporters held a noon-hour rally in front of St. Joseph's Healthcare yesterday, and President Linda Haslam-Stroud said the cuts to 84 RNs at the hospital show that money is valued more than patient care. She urged the public to sign a petition to end RN cuts, which will then be delivered to Ted McMeekin, MPP.
March 1: Ontario Nurses' Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud says patient health is being put at risk due to RN cuts (AM900 CHML, March 1, 2016). She and hundreds of nurses and supporters marched outside St. Joseph's Healthcare yesterday. The hospital is cutting RNs to balance its budget. Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said provincial funding of hospitals is "nowhere near" where it needs to be. She says that years of frozen hospital funding followed by a one-per-cent increase this year has left a "revolving door system" where surgeries are cancelled or postponed, patients are left in hallways on stretchers, and patients are being prematurely discharged from hospital, only to return later. Haslam-Stroud said the St. Joe's cuts are to nurses working in the medical and surgical units, as well as the neonatal intensive care unit.
March 2: More than 300 registered nurses, ONA representatives and supporters protested RN cuts at St. Joseph's Healthcare yesterday (Hamilton Spectator, March 2, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said, "the nurses are here to say enough is enough. The public needs to be aware that their health is at risk. We are advocating for you, but we need you to advocate for quality health care. We need you to speak to your MPPs." The hospital has announced it will cut more than 90 RNs in its $26-million budget cut exercise. Maria DaSilva is one of the RNs who will lose her job. She said, "I feel sorry for the patients. I hope that they can somehow bring the government to realize it needs to stop."
February 27: A letter to the editor of the London Free Press (February 27, 2016) says that there have been a number of protests of late to the government's cuts to health care. Harvey Easton writes that there have also been advertisements, notably by the Ontario Nurses' Association, protesting cuts to nursing staff. He says it puzzles him why so many health-care professionals voted for the current government. The increasing load on our health-care system will drastically increase with our aging population, and these cuts will exacerbate the already burdened system. He writes that "the message here is be careful who you vote for." Someday we'll all need care.
February 29: The Saskatoon Health Region says its staff rate of influenza immunization has plummeted since it discontinued a mandatory immunize-or-mask policy (Saskatoon StarPhoenix, February 29, 2016). Interim CEO Andrew Will said he is hoping to use this evidence as a case for the mask-or-immunize policy to be reinstated. Implementing the policy again may be tricky, as officials note a decision in Ontario. The Ontario Nurses' Association challenged that province's immunize-or-mask policy and won when an arbitrator struck it down. Arbitrator Jim Hayes found the policy was "a coercive tool" to force workers to get the vaccine.
February 24: Sue Sommerdyk, of the ONA Local representing RNs at Windsor Regional Hospital, says that she's not surprised that the province is giving the hospital funding to hire more RPNs (CKNW AM, February 24, 2016). Sommerdyk says RPN staffing is "cheaper healthcare." She believes much of the $7 million in one-time funding will be used to train RPNs to do more work. The workload, she says, is horrendous for RNs and fears what it will be like when the RNs are gone and RPNs take over. "We're seeing RNs being replaced with RPNs. We're seeing RPNs being replaced by PSWs who are also unregulated. So where does this stop?" Sommerdyk asks. "When do we start demanding healthcare that we deserve instead of the healthcare that the government thinks we should settle for?"
February 24: NDP critic Lisa Gretzky has grilled Health Minister Eric Hoskins about nursing layoffs at Windsor Regional Hospital (CKLW AM, February 24, 2016). Hoskins says the hospital is now making the transition to include more RPNs and the province has provided $7 million in funding to do so. Gretzky says that Canadian RNs are being forced to work outside of Canada because of the choices of the Wynne government.
February 26: St. Joseph's Healthcare is going to proceed with $26 million in cuts despite receiving more money from the province (Hamilton Spectator, February 26, 2016). Ontario hospitals received an increase to funding in yesterday's provincial budget, the first in five years. Hospital President Dr. David Higgins said "the increased funding for hospitals is a welcome investment by government during these fiscally challenging times. It will not alter the budget changes already announced at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton." Members of the Ontario Nurses' Association will hold a rally to protest the cuts on Monday; the union says it has received verbal notice that St. Joe's will cut 23 more part-time RN jobs in the coming days. ONA says that part-time RN jobs are being eliminated as adirect result of cuts to full-time staff. Donna Bain of ONA Local 75 says that "if you eliminate full-time, you don't need as much part-time." Two clinics are on the chopping block, and in addition, the hospital is hiring 38 RPNs to do the work currently done by higher-paid RNs. RNs have university degrees while RPNs have college diplomas. RNs care for sicker and more complex patients while RPNs are trained to work with stable patients. Bain says she is concerned. "Our hospitals are full of complex patients. No one convalesces in an acute care hospital. Government funding, or the lack thereof, have put hospitals in the position of having to look at the dollars and not what is best for patient care."
February 26: In its budget reaction story, the Toronto Sun (February 26, 2016) quotes ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. She told the Sun that she is "fairly positive about the increase in funding for the hospitals. It is not enough but we've been through four years of funding freezes, so I'm hoping we can stop the erosion of registered nurses' positions, which have been a total of about 470 already in the last six weeks in the hospitals."
February 26: Canadian Press (February 26, 2016) reports that the provincial government is on track to eliminate a $5.7-billion deficit in the next budget. Among the highlights of the budget are free university and college for low-income students, a new cap-and-trade program and an increase in health care spending. Hospital funding is increasing by $345 million after a four-year freeze, something the Ontario Nurses' Association and Ontario Health Coalition say is a great step, but not enough to make up for the freeze.
February 25: The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit's board has voted to ask the health ministry to continue funding Ontario health units directly (Stirling Community Press, February 25, 2016). The ministry has proposed handing funding over to its LHINs. The Central East LHIN has taken over Northumberland Hills Hospital funding and it's now experiencing its second round of financial cutbacks in five years. The Ontario Nurses' Association is warning about adverse outcomes when cutting nurses while increasing in-hospital patients.
February 25: The Sarnia Observer (February 25, 2016) reports that while the "dust hasn't settled yet," cuts to Bluewater Health staff will be slightly less deep than initially thought. CEO Mike Lapaine told the board that he expects the loss of 11 jobs, not 12 as first thought. Union officials with ONA are working through the collective bargaining agreement process to determine whose jobs will be affected by the cuts, said Lapaine. Among the vacancies that will go unfilled are a nurse practitioner, an ER nurse, an RPN, two RNs in the maternal, infant and child unit and a senior recreational therapist. Lapaine said that the 20-bed complex continuing care unit is closing down.
February 25: RNs facing layoff from Windsor Regional Hospital are being interviewed for jobs in Michigan one day and hired the next (Windsor Star, February 25, 2016). MPP Lisa Gretzky told the health minister Wednesday to "stop pushing out Windsor nurses to the U.S." Last month, the hospital laid off 166 staff, mostly RNs, saying it was being squeezed financially because of hospital funding in the province that has been frozen and a new funding formula. The Ontario Nurses' Association says that a total of 169 RNs have been affected by the cuts, and it has launched a petition and letter-writing campaign. Hoskins said he believes the skill mix at Windsor should be left to "the experts, to the LHINs, to the local leadership, to make sure the mix of nurses and other staff in the hospital truly meets the patients' needs." ONA Local president Sue Sommerdyk said the minister should be ashamed for blaming Windsor Regional for keeping its level of care higher than other hospitals. "I really think it's appalling," she said. "With all these issues of workload and patient care and all the things we have today, the government should be augmenting the staff, it should be bringing in RPNs to work with the RNs, not cut the RNs." Sommerdyk doesn't see working in Michigan hospitals as a great option. She says nurses must write their Michigan exams and be licensed to work there; they encounter hassles at the border and tunnel tolls in their daily commute. "We want our nurses to stay in Ontario," she said. "They want to stay in Ontario, they want to work where they grew up, they want to be around their family and friends."
February 24: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that practical nurses should not be forced into performing the care that RNs should be providing (CBC Radio 1, February 24, 2016). "The patients that we're seeing now in the hospitals are far from stable and predictable. They're complex, they're unpredictable, and they're very, very sick." She will be watching the provincial budget to see what is allocated to health-care funding. Annual funding to hospitals has been frozen for four years, and many hospitals are replacing RNs with RPNs. Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that "what's important to me is that patient outcomes don't suffer as a result of these changes and I've made it clear to our hospitals that that's my expectation. That any staffing or any change for that matter or any development, modification in their services cannot negatively impact patient care."
February 23: Nine months after taking a hammer to its ERs and using the Toyota method to speed patients through the ER, London's largest hospital has hit delays (London Free Press, St. Thomas Times-Journal, February 23, 2016). In addition, the Ontario Nurses' Association is accusing the hospital of funding plans to use the Toyota method by "downgrading the calibre of nurses" who treat the mentally ill in ERs. James Murray, RN and president of ONA Local 100, says "we just spent millions of dollars to try to implement Toyota. It's wasted money." He said that five RNs who care for those with mental illness in the ER will be replaced by cheaper, less-educated registered practical nurses. Murray says that while RPNs have valuable skills, they cannot replace RNs tasked with making tough calls about those with mental illness, including whether to restrain them through the use of medication or physical devices. Murray says that RPNs will not be able to pick up vital subtle clues in these patients. Hospital CEO Murray Glendining says the change "won't compromise safety and the money saved had nothing to do with the Toyota plan." Murray is not convinced that Toyota changes will help patients, pointing to a review of all previous studies on similar efficiency changes that found little evidence that they make a difference.
February 22: The board of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit will ask the Ministry of Health to keep funding health units directly, rather than handing control over to the province's LHINs (NorthumberlandToday.com, February 22, 2016).The Central East LHIN already manages funding for the Northumberland Hills Hospital which is in its second round of financial cutbacks in five years. Concerns were raised at public meetings in Cobourg and Port Hope about the impact that cutbacks and restructuring at the hospital have had on patient care. ONA has warned about the adverse outcome of cutting nursing staff as patient numbers go up.
February 19: The Ontario Nurses' Association has launched an ad campaign to educate the public about the detrimental impact of nursing cuts on patient care (associationsnow.com, February 19, 2016). The campaign focuses "on the professionalism of RNs, their medical knowledge, and advanced education that qualifies them to care for patients suffering from complex illnesses with unpredictable outcomes, like patients in hospitals." ONA urges the public to sign its petition supporting the Union’s call to end RN cuts, restore adequate hospital funding, and fund a multiyear plan to increase the RNs-to-population ratio.
February 17: As the Windsor Regional Hospital hands out layoff notices to RNs, recruiters from Michigan's Beaumont Hospital hope to snap up local nurses (CKLW AM, February 17, 2016). Windsor-area RNs and new graduates who are frustrated by local hospital cuts are submitting resumes to the American hospital which boasts "several job openings." "The problem for us in Windsor is we are creating what will be a serious shortage because our new graduates are leaving, they're going to the States, they're going to other provinces, and past practice has shown that they don't end up coming back," says Debbie Kane, a nursing professor at the University of Windsor.
February 16: Windsor's RNs sacrificed their Family Day to raise public awareness of cuts to RN positions at Windsor Regional Hospital, and the impact those cuts will have on patients (Windsor Square, February 16, 2016).
February 15: ONA bargaining unit president Susan Sommerdyk says Family Day was a "sad day for nursing" as many Windsor Regional Hospital RNs received notice that they'll be laid off by mid-June (CHWI TV, February 15, 2016). "We need more nurses at the bedside, not less." RNs held info pickets outside the hospital's two campuses on Monday to raise awareness of the impact that the loss of RNs will have on care. The Union hopes that anyone who saw rallies will go online show their support by signing a petition to stop RN cuts.
February 15: Windsor RNs "pounded the pavement" on Family Day to raise awareness of the impact that cuts to RN positions will have on patient care at Windsor Regional Hospital (CKLW AM, February 15, 2016). "These cuts are wrong. The hospitals need better funding, and patients deserve the care that goes with that funding," says ONA local bargaining unit president Susan Sommerdyk. "Today is a pivotal day for RNs here because the layoff notices went out effective today. And there's about 169 positions being lost."
February 16: Nurses holding an information picket outside the Ouellette campus of Windsor Regional Hospital warn that layoffs are hurting morale as the hospital loses young RNs just starting their careers, as well as more experienced nurses (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, February 16, 2016).
February 15: Around 50 to 60 nurses spent Family Day gathered outside Windsor's Metropolitan Hospital to protest job cuts and inform the public about how registered nurse layoffs will impact patient care (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, February 15, 2016). Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting the equivalent of 126 full-time RN positions. "This is hitting a lot of young nurses just coming into their profession, just coming into the jobs that they've spent a lot of time and effort in school," says ONA local bargaining unit president Susan Sommerdyk. "I've spoke to the students group, and they're really concerned about where they're going to have work when they come out."
February 16: On Family Day the Ontario Nurses' Association launched its Nurses Know campaign, celebrating "the dedication, knowledge and skills registered nurses (RNs) possess and the challenges they face as they provide quality, compassionate care" (Glengarry News, ArnpriorToday.com, February 16, 2016). "Nurses know what is ailing our health-care system. Nurses also know the cure. As this province continues to starve hospitals of funding, nurses know the impact on patients," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. The campaign includes television, radio, transit, print and social media ads running across the province, and an online petition that members of the public can sign to show their support. "By signing our on-line petition, Ontarians can support our call for an end to RN cuts, restoration of adequate hospital funding and a funded, multi-year plan to increase the ratio of RNs-to-population."
February 16: The Windsor Star's photographers were out covering events over the weekend, and featured ONA's information picket (Windsor Star, February 16, 2016). Among those at the information picket was RN Diane Valeri. Several dozen RNs and leaders from the Ontario Nurses' Association protested RN cuts.
February 13: Healthcare providers are "not happy" about the care they are receiving from the province (iNews 880 am, February 13, 2016). ONA broke off contract talks with the Ontario Hospital Association when the OHA made an offer that the union saw as a gutting of wages, benefits and job security. "We will not bargain away our future or our ability to provide quality patient care," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud. "Neither are we prepared to devalue the contributions made by these crucial professionals. Ontario's nurses are calling on the provincial government to give hospitals a wake-up call about the integral role that RNs play in the government's 'Patients First' agenda. Registered nurses had had enough of staffing shortages leading to death and disease, escalating workloads and violence." ONA says that unsafe RN staffing levels in Ontario are becoming common as hospitals continue to cut RN positions to balance budgets.
February 13: The union representing Ontario nurses says it has broken off talks with the Ontario Hospital Association (Broadcast News, February 13, 2016). ONA says the talks came to a halt when the Ontario Hospital Association made an offer that ONA says would result in the gutting of wages, benefits and job security. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the union is committed to negotiating an agreement that fairly reflects the contributions RNs make to patients.
February 16: Nurses and supporters rallied Monday outside both campuses of Windsor Regional Hospital to protest the planned layoffs of 169 RNs (Windsor Star, February 16, 2016). Sue Sommerdyk, president of the ONA Local, said, "this is a sad day for nursing." She says the protestors, carrying signs that said "More Funding, Better Care" and "RNs Have Your Back," rallied on Family Day because that is the day the lay-off notices take effect. She adds that the deleted RN positions equate to a 10-per-cent reduction in RN staffing. Motorists honked their horns in support of the nurses. Sommerdyk says care will deteriorate as a result of the provincial funding freeze for hospitals of the past five years.
February 15: RNs will be protesting in Windsor (Broadcast News, February 15, 2016). The RNs will be holding an information picket at Windsor Regional Hospital's Metropolitan and Ouellette sites to protest the 169 RN cuts announced by the hospital.
February 11: An opinion editorial in the Wallaceburg Courier Press (February 11, 2016) says that a Google search shows nurses being laid off in Ontario. The piece says he's not a health expert, but has been a patient. Most people would agree that nurses are vital to delivering an important health-care experience. Without nurses, "patients will pay the price." As well, "patient care will...go down the drain." ONA says that there were 770 RN positions cut across Ontario last year, and more are expected. Hospitals have to balance budgets, Most agree that by cutting nurses, patient care will decrease and put people's lives at risk. The workload is not going to lessen, as more mistakes happen and more nurses burn out trying to do more with less. The province says it's not to blame for budget cuts, as individual hospitals are responsible for staffing decisions. The OCH says Ontario funds all hospitals at the lowest rate of any province in Canada. Ontario now has the fewest hospital beds left per person. ONA says that every RN cut means 2,000 lost hours of care. This puts patients at an increased risk of suffering complications and death. Cutting nurses doesn't seem like a good idea. The editorial encourages people to "rally today for fired nurses."
February 10: A letter to the editor of the Windsor Star (February 10, 2016) says that none of Windsor's local MPPs or labour leaders have looked at the "imminent disaster" unfolding in our hospitals today. Colleen MacDonald, RN, writes that even though the OMA, ONA and RNAO have publicly detailed how "dangerous" the 170 RN cuts are, the CEO insists these changes will have no adverse effects. She adds that she is disappointed in Ken Lewenza, who did not exercise due diligence before publicly supporting the new mega hospital, which MacDonald calls the "latest health-care boondoggle."
February 5: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that in the past four weeks in Ontario, more than 400 RN positions have been cut from hospitals (CHML, CKNX, February 5, 2016). Haslam-Stroud is most concerned that RNs are being cut from units where their care is vital, including neonatal intensive care units, ORs, cardiology and oncology units.
February 5: ONA says that 2016 is turning into a disaster for patient care in hospitals (CKPC Brantford, February 5, 2016). Linda Haslam-Stroud says that hospitals are being hit with nursing cutbacks, with RN jobs cut from St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, the University Health Network, Mount Sinai Hospital and others.
February 8: More than double the number of front-line health workers in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge have reported being attacked by patients than workers in surrounding communities, according to numbers from the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (CBC News, February 8, 2016). WSIB has allowed 27 lost-time injuries for assaults, violent acts or harassment by patients in just three years. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris that nurses have felt for a long time that violence and injury is part of the job, but that is now changing. "It is not part of the job," she said, "it's not part of anyone's job...to be stabbed, kicked, sexually assaulted, choked, end up with a head injury or concussion...we need to do better." Grand River Hospital CEO Malcolm Maxwell said that safety is a growing concern among front-line health-care staff. He notes that patients are sometimes intoxicated, distraught or in grief, impaired cognitively or don't appreciate the consequences of their behavior. Last September, Guelph General Hospital hired four new permanent security guards following a fatal shooting in its ER.
February 7: A letter to the editor of the Windsor Star (February 7, 2016) says that political leaders and others are in full support of the new mega-hospital for the city. However, writes Colleen MacDonald, RN, they are "so busy trying to ensure quality health care 10 to 15 years from now, none of them have addressed the imminent disaster unfolding in our hospitals today." MacDonald writes that 170 RNs are being cut from Windsor, including Nurse Practitioners. "They will be welcomed with open arms to the Michigan medical system," she writes, and "they will never return." The Ontario Medical Association, ONA and the RNAO have all launched public campaigns detailing how dangerous these cuts will be to patients. David Musyj insists the changes will have no adverse effects on patient outcomes. MacDonald asks, "who do you believe?" As a retired RN, MacDonald writes that for years she has seen health-care dollars diverted from the bedside to administration and construction. She also suggests that if the province can cap physician and nurses' salaries, "surely they can do the same for administration."
February 5: ONA says that 2016 is turning into a "disaster" for patient care as Toronto-area hospitals are now being hit with RN cutbacks (Broadcast News, February 5, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says RN positions are being cut at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, the University Health Network's Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, Mount Sinai Hospital and CAMH. She says hospitals are cutting RNs out of units where their care is vital, including neonatal intensive care units, operating rooms, cardiology and oncology units. In the past four weeks alone, 406 RN positions have been cut from Ontario hospitals.
January 27: A letter to the editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal (January 27, 2016) from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that ONA's goal in decrying the severe RN shortage at Hogarth Riverview Manor is to improve care for vulnerable residents. ONA is not debating the merits of RNs and RPNs, but rather fighting for the employer to adhere to strict regulations put in place by the Ministry of Health for safety reasons. ONA strongly believes that every RN and RPN has "a vital place in health care." The regulations in the Long-Term Care Act, 2007 are clear, and state that an RN must be present in the long-term care home at all times. Ministry inspectors have cited Hogarth Riverview Manor twice in 2015 for failing to comply with regulations, and have again sent in an inspector. Haslam-Stroud writes that the bottom line is that every nurse, no matter their designation, wants the same thing for patients: safe, quality care our vulnerable seniors deserve.
January 27: The Ontario Nurses' Association and Harrow Health Centre have reached a tentative deal (CKLW AM, January 27, 2016). The five NPs and three RPNs help provide primary health care to Harrow and McGregor.
January 29: Ontario Nurses' Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that while money has been taken out of Ontario's hospital budgets for the past four years, reinvestment in community care has been significantly less (Sarnia Observer, January 29, 2016). "It's like the cart is way out and the horse is still having breakfast," said McKenna. "We all understand how things have to be built over time, but in the meantime, you don't just stop doing something that provides a service to people, particularly when it comes to health care." McKenna's comments come after the announcement of another round of staffing cuts at Bluewater Health, including registered nurses. The cuts, says McKenna, will impact patient care. "For every additional patient added to an average nurse's workload, it increases the complication rate, the morbidity and mortality rate, by seven per cent," she said. "This is about people's health and this is about people's lives. This situation has to stop." McKenna urges people to start calling their MPP and officials at the LHIN to complain about the ongoing cuts.
January 27: ONA members providing care at Harrow Health Centre have avoided a strike (CBC News, January 27, 2016). The five Nurse Practitioners and three Registered Practical Nurses have reached a tentative first collective agreement with management. Nurses would have been in a strike position if a deal had not been reached. ONA is recommending ratification.
January 25: New Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley has "extended an olive branch" to three union leaders, including the Ontario Nurses' Association (Queen's Park Briefing, January 25, 2016). Buckley says the days of differences between past OFL leadership and affiliates are "behind us." Buckley has asked ONA, OPSEU and SEIU to return to the fold, promising a "less-combative approach." Buckley's period of time at the OFL has been spent mending fences with the unions and establishing a more reasonable tone with the government.
January 27: While Northumberland Hills Hospital says it is cutting 13.17 full-time equivalent RN positions, the Ontario Nurses' Association says that number is actually 28 of its RNs (Peterborough Examiner, January 27, 2016). ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says 17 full-time RN positions will be impacted, affecting 28 RNs. The impact of the RN cuts, says McKenna, includes heavier workloads for nurses, increasing the risk of patients suffering complications and even death.
January 26: ONA members providing patient care at Harrow Health Centre may be forced to strike as they continue to seek a first collective agreement (Nurses' Newsline, January 26, 2016). Five NPs and three RPNs provide a wide array of nursing care for their patients. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, says the nurses are providing an invaluable service, and nurses know patients will suffer should they be forced to strike. The president says she "remains optimistic that this employer will return to the negotiating table...and reasonably negotiate with our dedicated and highly skilled members."
January 26: Among the 1,000 protestors in North Bay in December were CFNU President Linda Silas and ONA Local Coordinator Debbie McCrank (North Bay Nugget, January 26, 2016). The protestors gathered in an effort to convince the government to free up more money for hospitals in Northern Ontario, particularly the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Silas says that North Bay is looking at 100 layoffs per year if the province does not end a freeze on health-care spending. McCrank said the cuts to RNs and services would impact all of the North, noting that the North Bay Regional Health Centre is a major treatment centre, but the province's cuts are putting that designation at risk, and putting extra pressure on all Northern hospitals. "It comes down to cheaper care versus quality care," she said. "The province is driven by the budget, not by the concern for quality health care."
January 26: The Ontario Nurses' Association, one of three unions affected by a new hospital plan at Northumberland Hills Hospital, says that 28 of their registered nurses will be impacted by cuts (NorthumberlandToday.com, January 26, 2016). The hospital says the cuts will total 13.17 full-time-equivalent RNs. However, ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that 17 full-time RNs will be cut as well as another eight RNs who are in job-share positions, and three part-time RNs. McKenna says that when you realize that a full-time RN works almost 2,000 hours annually, "that's a pretty big loss of RN care for patients and their families." Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra says that hospital funding is being cut for a ninth straight year at hospitals in Ontario. The hospital is also going to search for a further savings of several million dollars through "integration efficiencies" with other organizations. Despite hospital CEO Linda Davis's statement that patient care will be the same, McKenna says "that doesn't make sense. It isn't logical." She says that while the plan may look good on paper, the logistics of assigning staff to patients doesn't take into account the required bedside care while opening and closing ward doors, working around walls, and other issues on the units. Research shows that with fewer nurses caring for more patients, workloads rise and so do patient complications and death rates -- by 7 per cent for every extra patient added to an RN's workload. McKenna says that decisions are being driven solely by dollars and managers are looking at just front-end costs, not the back-end costs, or when the emergency department becomes a "revolving door."
January 24: ONA's claim of a "severe" lack of RNs at Hogarth Riverview Manor has created "local fallout" (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, January 24, 2016). Unifor Local 229 president Kari Jefford says that ONA's accusations have "caused significant fear and anxiety to those residents and families who have moved into the new facility..." and adds that ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud's statements are "unjust and not accurate." ONA says there have been multiple occasions when there have been no RNs on site. Jefford says there is no legislated minimum hours of hands-on nursing care for residents in long-term care. She adds that the "only point on which I can agree with Haslam-Stroud is residents in long-term care deserve dignity and respect and that there is a shortage of nursing staffing levels in all areas."
January 22: St. Joseph's Healthcare "is done with the personal alarm systems at its West 5th campus" (Hamilton Spectator, January 22, 2016). There was another assault against its nursing staff Wednesday evening as at least seven personal alarms of nursing staff failed to trigger a code white (a call for immediate help). Two RPNs and an RN sustained injuries, and all had tested the battery life of their alarms before the start of their shift, said VP of Quality, Strategic Planning, Mental Health and Addiction Programs at St. Joe's, Romeo Cercone. A separate alarm failed to indicate the patient had left their bed Wednesday evening. Now, the hospital is asking the alarm company to remove the system and replace it with "something that works." ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is pleased with the hospital's quick response. The hospital has apologized for the toll "the long-standing problem" took on staff and clients.
January 22: Northumberland Hills Hospital is cutting staff in a hospital restructuring plan (NorthumberlandToday.com, January 22, 2016). The 92-bed hospital, which was built a decade ago to accommodate 137 beds, will consolidate two units -- medical and surgical -- into a 36-bed unit, and merge palliative and restorative care units into a 24-bed unit "to reduce the overall staffing," says CEO Linda Davis. The hospital will be meeting with ONA as well as CUPE and OPSEU in the coming weeks.
January 20: St. Joseph's Care Group is "facing more pressure" regarding staffing levels at its new Hogarth Riverview Manor long-term care facility (CKPR TV, January 20, 2016). The Ontario Nurses' Association says there is a severe lack of RNs at the new facility, and it has filed a grievance with the employer. ONA says the ratio of residents to RNs is far too low, and there have been a number of occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. Labour Relations Officer Michele Martin says "our concern is for the safety of residents...this is their home and they're here because they need some assistance. And we want to make sure that the right provider and enough providers are there to care." Two weeks ago, members of Unifor and the local Health Coalition rallied over similar concerns.
January 21: St. Joseph's Care Group disputes a claim by ONA that a lack of RNs at its Hogarth Riverview Manor is putting residents at risk (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, January 21, 2016). CEO Tracy Buckler says the organization "complies with all legislation with respect to the operation of our long-term care homes." However, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the organization's failure to plan and staff for the expansion of the facility has resulted in a lack of RNs, risking the care and safety of its vulnerable residents and violating legislated RN staffing levels. "This is an unsafe, unacceptable situation for our residents," she said. The facility had months to plan and ensure a full complement of staff to ensure residents transitioned safely into their new home, but, says Haslam-Stroud, "there are more residents but fewer RNs and just one registered nurse responsible for the entire facility overnight." Furthermore, she says there have been multiple occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. ONA is calling on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to take immediate steps to force this facility to comply with standards.
January 20: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that "we are experiencing cuts to registered nurses across the province" (The Cord, January 20, 2016). "Hospitals are telling us that it's simply based on the budget." The latest round of cuts happened at Grand River Hospital, where 38 staff have received lay-off notices and 30 vacant positions will be unfilled. As McKenna notes, "The research is clear that registered nurses at the bedside with patients improve outcomes. They stay shorter lengths of stay at hospital and have fewer complications. As an Ontarian and certainly as a practicing nurse, that's not acceptable." She believes the government must fund hospitals appropriately and should account for increases to costs that are often out of the hospital's control, such as utility costs and drug prices. "It's not a good situation for nurses in Ontario at all, nor for patients."
January 21: The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health has ratified new contracts with two of the health unit's unions (Trenton Trentonian, January 21, 2016). The medical officer of health and the board say they are proud to have a new deal with members of the Ontario Nurses' Association. The chair of the board said "the staff acted responsibly. The increases they took were modest, but I think reflective of the reality that we need to be competitive in today's market."
January 20: The Ontario Nurses' Association is criticizing what it says is a severe lack of registered nurses at the new Hogarth Riverview Manor seniors home (tbnewswatch.com, January 20, 2016). ONA has filed a grievance with St. Joseph's Care Group, saying the ratio of residents to registered nurses is far too low. ONA officials claim that since residents began moving into the facility, there have been a number of occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. St. Joe's say that the large new building is an opportunity to try different staffing models and that they are confident in their ability to provide proper care to residents.
January 19: Nurses' Newsline (January 19, 2016) reports that a nurse had hot coffee thrown in her face during another assault at St. Joseph's Healthcare. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the RPN was assaulted by a patient in the medium-security forensics unit. When the nurse pressed her personal alarm button, it failed.
January 18: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the number of RN jobs being cut at Windsor Regional Hospital is a lot higher than the 80 positions announced earlier (CKLW AM Windsor, January 18, 2016). McKenna says the number is "just devastating" to the nurses and to the community. McKenna explains that some of the RN positions will be instead filled by RPNs and many not filled at all. The RNs have been there because people who are in hospital need to be cared for by highly skilled nurses. "Let's be clear: we need RPNs, we need RNs, we need everybody in the health care system working," says McKenna. "But what the issue at hand here is that where a patient's...condition is not predictable" they need an RN caring for them. Research shows clearly that when a patient's care needs are unpredictable, they need an RN at the bedside. Patients do better because of RNs' observation skills and their training. McKenna says the difficulty lies at what the impact of RN cuts will be on the patients. RN workloads will increase, and again, the research shows that this will increase the risk of patients suffering complications and even death by seven per cent.
January 18: The Ontario Nurses' Association says that the total number of RN positions being cut by Windsor Regional Hospital is 169, not the number provided by the hospital (CBC Windsor, January 18, 2016). ONA has now received formal layoff notices for the RNs and says the cuts will impact most areas of the hospital by way of direct layoffs, not filling vacant positions, reducing hours, replacing RNs with RPNs and closing some full programs. University of Toronto Nursing Professor Anne Tourangeau has done two large studies that looked at nurse staffing in Ontario hospitals. She says that despite examining many factors, including physician qualifications, it is consistently the RN staff mix that comes up as being the predictor of patient mortality. She believes that the quality of care will be impacted.
January 15: ONA is sounding the alarm about RN layoffs, and warns that patients will pay the price (hrreporter.com, January 15, 2016). ONA says 770 RN positions were cut last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced RN cuts this month. Windsor Regional Hospital cut about 120 RN positions this week, but says it plans to hire 80 RPNs. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the hospitals decide to "risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget."
January 15: ONA says that patients will be the big losers after recent RN cuts at Ontario hospitals (CJQM Sault Ste. Marie, CHML AM Hamilton, CBC Radio 1 Windsor, CKGL AM Kitchener-Waterloo, CHAS FM Sault Ste. Marie, CFPL FM London, CHOK-AM Sarnia, CKTB AM St. Catharines, January 15, 2016). The nurses' union says 770 RNs were cut in 2015 and more RN cuts have already been announced this year. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that cash-strapped hospitals have decided to risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget.
January 14: The Lynne Martin Show (CKLW AM Windsor, January 14, 2016) featured debate about whether listeners believe RN cuts will lead to health care suffering. ONA believes that patients are at risk because of RN cuts. The Liberals, Martin reports, insist that isn't going to happen.
January 14: The union representing 60,000 RNs say patients will be the big losers after RN layoffs at cash-strapped hospitals (CFPL AM, January 14, 2016). ONA is sounding the alarm and says 770 RN positions were cut last year. Hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced RN cuts this month. Health Minister Eric Hoskins praised the work of nurses, and said that hospitals are responsible for their own staffing decisions.
January 15: Queen's Park Briefing (January 15, 2016) reports that "last year was a rough one for nurses -- and it doesn't look like 2016 is going to be any better." ONA says that 770 RNs were cut last year as hospitals tried to balance budgets. The layoffs aren't stopping this year either, with Windsor and Kitchener hospitals announcing RN cuts. Who's to blame? Canadian Press reports that most of the fingers are being pointed at the government's funding formula, which hospitals say favours faster-growing areas.
January 14: The PCs say that Ontario hospitals are in crisis because their hospital budgets have been frozen for four years, and say nurses are ending up as targets and patients are getting decreased levels of care (Canadian Press, CTV News, January 14, 2016). PC Health Critic Jeff Yurek says "when you do front-line health-care cuts the patient does suffer, care does diminish, because nursing is the backbone of the health-care system, particularly in the hospitals. When you cut back on nursing you just increase the stress levels for those who are left to fill the void." ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says hospitals have "decided to risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget." ONA says 770 RNs were cut last year and two hospitals have already announced layoffs this month. The NDP says the Liberal government's decision to freeze hospital budgets means nursing cuts that directly impact patients. They also pointed out that people can wait up to 200 days for home care services after being discharged from hospital. NDP Health Critic France Gelinas said "I would tell the government to stop the cuts to front-line care. I don't want to be alarmist, but this will put patients at risk." She also is concerned that the push to home- and community-based care means pushing patients to private companies contracted to provide services. "The money that goes to profit does not go to care, but it comes out of the same pie."
January 15: ONA is "sounding the alarm" after layoffs of RNs by cash-strapped hospitals and warns patients will pay the price (Waterloo Region Record, London Free Press, Hamilton Spectator, CP24, January 15, 2016). ONA says 770 RN positions were cut across Ontario last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced more layoffs this month. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says hospitals have decided to "risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget." Part of the problem is a new funding formula that favours hospitals in high-growth areas such as Toronto, meaning less money for Windsor-Essex, says the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital. ONA says that "hardly a day goes by" where it doesn't get a call from hospital nurses who say they've been told to expect layoffs. A four-year funding freeze means hospitals have less money for patient care because of inflationary pressures. ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that "I absolutely believe that this is all being driven by budget cuts." Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that hospitals are responsible for their own staffing decisions. "Our expectation remains that they work closely with the LHINs to determine how best to manage their budget concerns in a way that sustains quality health care services for the future and does not impact patient care."
January 12: Arnprior Today (January 12, 2016) reports that ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud believes patients will pay the price of Windsor Regional Hospital RN cuts. Cutting RNs "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death." Haslam-Stroud encourages residents to speak out, to question their MPPs on where they stand on more RNs, and demand better, safer patient care.
January 13: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting more than 160 full-time jobs, and 80 RN positions will be replaced with lower-earning RPNs (CFCO AM, January 13, 2016). While CEO David Musyj says that a province-wide funding freeze for hospitals and a new funding formula that punishes Windsor are to blame, he also says that quality outcomes for patients will not be affected. ONA Bargaining Unit President Susan Somerdyck disagrees, noting that "studies and studies have shown that the higher trained the health-care provider at the bedside, the better outcome. So they're not going to have the same quality of care."
January 13: RN layoffs are happening across the province, including at Windsor Regional Hospital, and ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says hospitals are entering the fifth year of zero base budgeting increases (CBC Radio 1, January 13, 2016). Each year, hospitals cut RN positions to balance their budgets. In Windsor, the hospital will replace dozens RNs with lower-paid, less-educated RPNs. McKenna says that there is a place for everybody in the system, and RPNs care for patients who are "predictable, have less complex care needs." RNs are needed at the bedside of those with unpredictable outcomes. McKenna says that the in-hospital patients of today are not the same as in-hospital patients a few years ago -- most require care providers at the bedside who can assess and be with [patients] "when their situation is not predictable, and when it is complex." The government has not provided adequate funding to our hospitals, she says, and administrators need to have the courage to speak out.
January 15: ONA says that patients will pay the price for layoffs of RNs at Ontario hospitals (Broadcast News, January 15, 2016). President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the "cash-strapped" hospitals have decided to "risk the health outcomes of patients" by cutting RNs to balance hospital budgets. ONA says there were 770 RN positions cut across Ontario last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced more layoffs this month.
January 14: The Stirling Community Press (January 14, 2016) reports that ONA has ratified a new contract with the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health. Medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas says he is proud of the board's approval of a new three-year contract.
January 13: The seventh incident of violence at St. Joseph's Healthcare in just two months has occurred (CHCH TV, January 13, 2016). A nurse had hot coffee thrown at her by a patient at the psychiatric facility at the West Fifth Campus. The nurse suffered burns to the face and neck and was treated. Hospital spokesperson Romeo Cercone said, "it was something that was completely unpredictable. There was really nothing that we could do to anticipate that this was going to happen." The Ontario Nurses' Association says it is "appalled" at the number of violent attacks. ONA, in a written statement, said, "Violence should never be part of a registered nurse's job." Retired RN Lisa Yanch says that "we don't do this job as nurses or as other health-care workers because we expect it to be a walk in the park; however, you do expect a certain level of security." She says the hospital is silencing its workers and putting them at risk of serious harm.
January 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province needs to step up funding for hospitals, and hospital administrators have to stop cutting jobs every time there is a budget shortfall (CBC News, January 13, 2015). Haslam-Stroud says that, "what's happening is the bean counters are basically cutting what the easiest thing to do is, cut the staff, because that's the majority of the cost." In an interview following news that Grand River Hospital is cutting 68 jobs, many of them RN positions, Haslam-Stroud said that hospitals need to be held to account because they talk about their own budgets, but not how cuts will really affect patients. She adds that there is no doubt in her mind that patient care will be affected by the cuts. "Patients' death and disease rates will increase," she said, and "the evidence is very clear that that will happen."
January 14: Another nurse has been assaulted at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, and hospital officials say dead batteries are to blame for the nurse's personal alarm system failing (Hamilton Spectator, January 14, 2016). In this incident at the Mountain site, an RPN had "very hot coffee" thrown in her face by a patient in the medium-security forensics unit as she was redressing wounds. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that when the RPN pressed her personal alarm button, it failed. "This is not the first time that we had concerns regarding the competencies of these alarms," said Haslam-Stroud. CUPE Local 786 President Dominic DiPasquale says the RPN needed medical attention. The hospital says that every staff member is supposed to check their battery level every shift, and exchanging a battery is as easy as walking to the security office. However, Haslam-Stroud said the policy is for batteries to be checked monthly, which the battery in question was, and the union has been refused in its requests of the hospital to make the checks more frequent. "It is a faulty system and blaming it on staff error is easy," she said. "But no staff wish to have a non-working alarm." Retired St. Joe's RN Lisa Yanch says there is only one security person at the West 5th campus that has been trained in battery replacement. When the battery is dead, staff have been told to wait up to three days to have it changed, and instructed to use a whistle in the interim. She said the batteries often will indicate they are full and then fail to work the next day. Haslam-Stroud says that the problems with the alarm system are ongoing and that the Ministry of Labour visited twice - in December - and witnessed two alarms fail during testing. MOL orders were laid against the hospital. DiPasquale says, "it's now up the Ministry of Labour to say enough is enough, and we are going to fine you."
January 14: Unions representing Grand River Hospital staff say it's "not possible" that job cuts won't have an impact on patient care (Waterloo Region Record, January 14, 2016). ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that hospital CEOs facing a budget deficit just take the "easy solution" and "cut registered nurses. I believe that it is not in the best interest of patients," she said. Grand River is cutting 38 staff and eliminating 30 vacant positions to deal with a $10-million budget shortfall. Fourteen RNs are being cut as well as nine RPNs. Hospital President and CEO Malcolm Maxwell said he expects patients will not see any changes because of the cuts. McKenna says the cuts have to stop. They are a result of frozen government funding for hospitals despite the rising costs of care, and hospital administrators making decisions based on the bottom line, not what's best for patients. "We're seeing this [RN cuts] right across the province," she says, "and we have to say, stop this. Adequately fund our hospitals."
January 12: ONA says that patients will pay the price for Windsor Regional Hospital's decision to cut RN positions (National Post, January 12, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that she is "deeply disappointed but not surprised" that more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated RNs are being deleted from the hospital. Doing so, she says, "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death." Windsor Regional says that a new funding formula is punishing it for being a slow-growth community.
January 12: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting close to 90 jobs, and its CEO says that it won't impact patient care (CTV Windsor, January 12, 2016). David Musyj says the hospital had six straight balanced budgets but a new hospital funding formula has left it with a $20-million shortfall. His hospital is going to make changes to 166 positions in total, and decrease the number of RNs by 80 while increasing RPNs by 80. The Ontario Nurses' Association has come out to say that patients will pay the price for the job changes. The president of ONA says that more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated nurses are being deleted from the hospital and that poses an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death. ONA is encouraging patients to voice their concerns to their MPPs.
January 12: More than half a dozen nurses at St. Joe's hospital in Hamilton have been assaulted or threatened since mid-December, says the President of the Ontario Nurses' Association (Nurses' Newsline, January 12, 2016). With budget cuts looming, Linda Haslam-Stroud says she fears things will get worse. "There is an ongoing issue with respect to violence towards [registered nurses] at St. Joe's," she says. "There is no way to provide even the current level of service -- as poor as it is -- with the hammer hanging over the budget."
January 12: ONA Bargaining Unit President Sue Sommerdyk says that "studies and studies have shown the higher trained the healthcare provider at the bedside, the better outcomes, so [patients] are not going to have the same quality of care" following drastic RN cuts at Windsor Regional Hospital (Blackburn News, January 12, 2016). Windsor announced it is cutting 120 nurses and replacing 80 RNs with RPN positions. The cutbacks are "hard to swallow" for the RNs. Sommerdyk says it "was a very difficult day and there's more to come." She says morale has taken a hit and nurses feel "concern, worry, upset."
January 12: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that patients will pay the price following Windsor Regional Hospital's announcement that it will cut RN positions (windsoriteDOT.ca News, January 12, 2016). "I am deeply disappointed but not surprised to hear that yet more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated registered nurses are being deleted..." she said. Doing so, she says, "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death."
January 12: ONA is criticizing the decision of Windsor Regional Hospital to cut RNs due to funding and revenue issues (CBC News, January 12, 2016). CEO David Musyj says that to "soften the blow," the hospital will hire 80 RPNs to replace RNs. Susan Sommerdyk, the ONA Bargaining Unit President, says "The government is forcing the hospital's hands to make these changes and these changes are not good for Ontarians. They're not going to be good in the future and they're not going to be good now." Of 166 jobs being cut, 120 are RNs. The other 46 will be a mix of staff including administration positions. Twelve years ago, Windsor Regional switched to an all-RN model of care, saying it was best for patient care.
January 13: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting its RN staff to help eliminate a $20-million budget shortfall (Windsor Star, January 13, 2016). In total, the hospital is eliminating 120 nursing jobs from an RN workforce of 1,550. Windsor will "switch" 80 RN positions into RPN positions and CEO David Musyj says no patient services are changing, no programs are being reduced and patients won't be affected. RNs say there is plenty of research showing that all-RN hospitals are better for hospitals. "In my opinion, you're putting patients more at risk," said Sue Sommerdyk, president of ONA's Windsor Regional Bargaining Unit. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the RN cuts equate to a quarter million hours of RN care annually. "This is a huge, drastic cut, this is one of the biggest we've seen," she said, asserting that reducing RN staffing results in poorer patient care, from higher infection rates to increased misses and near misses on the hospital floors. "As you cut the RN staff, the patient death and disease rates go up. And Windsor is gutting the RN positions. To be clear, I don't buy that they had to do this." Musyj admits that switching RNs for RPNs contradicts the earlier belief that all-RN hospitals have better outcomes. "But now the [government] funding formula doesn't allow us to do it, so we have to make the change."
January 7: Public Health Nurses at Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health Unit have a new contract (CJTN FM, CJBQ AM, January 7, 2016). The Ontario Nurses' Association members and the employer have negotiated the new three-year agreement.
January 6: CJBQ News (January 6, 2016) reports that ONA members at the Hastings and Prince Edward Board of Health have a new three-year contract.
January 7: Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health has ratified new contracts with two unions (Belleville Intelligencer, January 7, 2015). Medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas says he is proud to have board approval of a new three-year contract with the Ontario Nurses' Association and CUPE. Members of both unions will receive wage increases of 1.75 per cent for 2015, 1.25 for 2016 and one per cent in 2017.
January 6: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says many or all of the violent attacks on nurses at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton can be attributed to inadequate hospital funding (CHML AM, January 6, 2016). Hospitals have received no funding increases for several years now, and RNs are being cut -- Ontario lost more than 750 RNs last year alone. There aren't enough nurses on staff to de-escalate violent situations. McKenna explains that when people come to hospital, they do so because they need care, attention and support, which nurses provide. Fewer nurses impedes the ability to adequately support and de-escalate volatile situations. While additional security would be helpful, people are looking for treatment and support. Less support equals more agitation for some patients. Nurses are going to work each day "hoping that there is enough staff." However, nurses are becoming very, very fatigued, anxious and they know they're working in an environment that feels unsafe. ONA has been receiving great support from the public on the issue of workplace violence, says McKenna, and ONA will continue to advocate on behalf of patients, as required by the CNO. She adds that administrators cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that their nurses are being injured and beaten at work.
January 6: A St. Joseph's Healthcare patient is facing charges after two nurses were assaulted with a cellphone (Hamilton Spectator, January 6, 2016). A 40-year-old female patient threw a cellphone at staff Monday afternoon, resulting in minor injuries for the two workers at the Charlton campus. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that based on what she was told by her sources, the assailant was escorted from the ER by police officers. The patient also had a dog leash, which she used to hit one of the nurses. Haslam-Stroud says that St. Joe's needs to put in place an antiviolence program. "There is no excuse that any nurse is going to accept that they should be on the receiving end of being pummeled," she said.
January 5: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that more than half a dozen nurses at St. Joseph's Healthcare have been assaulted or threatened since mid-December, and budget cuts threaten to make things worse (CBC News, January 5, 2016). "There is an ongoing issue with respect to violence towards [registered nurses] at St. Joe's," she said. "There is no way to provide even the current level of service, as poor as it is, with the hammer hanging over the budget." The hospital must find $26 million in savings in order to balance its 2016/17 budget. Haslam-Stroud believes that RN positions will be cut, and she ties those cuts to safety. "As they erode these positions, they are essentially putting patients and [nurses] at risk...if you have the appropriate number of nurses there responding, you can deescalate a lot of these situations..." She adds that the hospital should reexamine staffing levels as well as training and education for management and staff. However, considering that it has taken 18 months to agree on the wording for a zero-tolerance for violence in the workplace sign, Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is not holding its breath.
January 1: The top news headlines for 2015 in Kenora included an item from May about ONA (kenoradailyminerandnews.com, January 1, 2016). It notes that ONA was concerned about potential nursing cuts and planned to air their concerns at a town hall meeting. Vicki McKenna, vice-president of ONA, told the Daily Miner and News that nursing cuts at the hospital mean less beds and less nursing care for patients.
January 2: Hamilton Spectator (January 2, 2016) reporters and columnists spoke to those in the region to ask for their list of key issues people will be talking about in 2016. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that RNs will be looking for improvements to hospital funding, monitoring the cutting of RN positions which increases morbidity and mortality of patients, reducing violence against nurses, and maintaining a publicly funded, administered and delivered health-care system.
January 2: The Ontario Nurses' Association is "fighting efforts by regulators to publicly report when nurses commit crimes or fall short of professional standards" (London Free Press, Stratford Beacon-Herald, January 2, 2016). The report says that if ONA members have a drug addiction, they are being told by their union not to tell their employers. Local 100's Jill Ross has written on the Local ONA website that "Our LEAP team encourages members to not self-report an addiction or substance dependency. Contact LEAP." ONA's own newsletter says that the union is very "concerned about the publication of this additional information, especially with respect to criminal charges, in person cautions and...we believe that the College has leaned too far in favour of public disclosure at the expense of nurses' human rights and the principles of fairness." Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that more transparency is needed to hold all health professionals accountable and to improve care and safety for patients."
January 4: A letter to the editor of the Waterloo Region Record (January 4, 2016) says Ontarians should value their health more. Megan Bedbrook, a nurse in the busy ER, says that when fully staffed, a team of 15 nurses often see just shy of 200 patients in a day. "I need to believe that the work we do is important, that the time, effort and sacrifices that we invest into making careers out of caring for other people matters...because at the end of the day, I am more than exhausted. I am depleted." She notes that according to ONA, Ontario has the second-worst RN-to-population ratio in the country. More than one million hours of RN care was cut in 2015 alone. "This does not result in better care. In fact, risk of complications and death increases by seven per cent for each additional patient added to a nurse's workload." Bedbrook writes that health-care is an essential services but doesn't receive the money it needs to provide services.
Do you think there are enough registered nurses working to care for patients in Ontario?
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