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:

April 10: Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the province is hiring more nurses than ever, but it “rang a little hollow” in London just after London Health Sciences Centre announced plans to cut 27 nursing positions (Metro, April 10, 2014). Sousa told the media that nurses are more in demand than ever in Ontario, even though both London hospitals will be downsizing this year. “We’ve hired more nurses, not fired more nurses,” he said. He stressed that the province needs more nurses, personal care workers and practitioners. The Ontario Nurses’ Association “vehemently disagrees” with LHSC CEO Murray Glendining’s assertion that cutting RNs won’t impact patient care.

April 9: Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa has deflected questions on recent nursing cuts at London hospitals (Blackburn News, April 9, 2014). Both St. Joseph’s Health Care and London Health Sciences Centre have announced RN cuts in recent weeks. Sousa said that the province is adding nursing positions, not cutting them. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that it believes the government’s new funding formula means that hospitals are balancing budgets on the backs of nurses. The nurses have been fighting back over cuts they say are an attack on their profession.

April 9: Lakeridge Health CEO Kevin Empey says the corporation’s goal is to provide patients with the right care at the right time, but the Ontario Nurses’ Association says the hospital is compromising patient care by cutting more than 30 nurses (Oshawa Express, April 9, 2014). Budget constraints mean the hospital is “reconfiguring” some 30 RNs within the corporation. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says patients were not at the forefront of the decision to cut nurses. “Certainly we think it’s totally inappropriate,” she said. “They are cutting thousands of nursing hours at Lakeridge Health. This decision is not going to be the cure all.” McKenna says she knows that hospital budgets are tight, but “we have the put patients at the core of the decisions.”

April 10: Nurses and firefighters in Barrie are working without contracts as they wait for arbitration decisions (Barrie Advance, April 10, 2014). Members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association saw their central hospital agreement expire on March 31, and at issue are wages and benefits. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said the “Ontario Hospital Association’s proposals of cuts to wages and benefits will have a profound effect on the supply of nurses in Ontario that directly impacts the quality of care that Ontarians can expect to receive. The proposed new system of RN wage cuts would send a strong message that registered nurses are not valued and prompt new RN graduates to look south of the border or to other provinces.”

April 2: ONA’s 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals and affiliated nursing students are mourning the passing of the union’s founding Chief Executive Officer Anne Gribben (Nurses Newsline, April 2, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that, “Anne laid the groundwork for a strong collective bargaining system for nurses in Ontario. She was such a guiding light for so many nurses over the years, as a strong advocate for the profession, for women’s rights and as a leading voice for a unionized workforce in Ontario.” ONA, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, was formed in October 1973 at a meeting of RNs in downtown Toronto. Under Gribben’s guidance, nurses sought and achieved a central collective bargaining process and landmark professional responsibility clause, which gives nurses a mechanism for dealing with excessive workloads and dangerous working conditions that put patients at risk.

April 3: Health-care workers, including nurses, are at risk for “stubbornly high rates” of on-the-job injuries (healthydebate.ca, April 3, 2014.)Unavoidable exposure to everyday job hazards -repetitive lifting, chemicals, infections and violence- means that the number of injuries reported by health-care workers has stayed relatively steady compared to other industries such as mining and manufacturing that have been able to reduce the number of injuries in the workplace over the years. “It is expected in health care that front line workers put themselves forward to care for patients at all costs – they step up and do what they can, often at their own peril,” said University Health Network’s former Chief Nursing Executive Mary Ferguson- Paré. Nancy Johnson, a Health and Safety Specialist with the Ontario Nurses’ Association, explains that unlike other industries, health care is unpredictable and therefore many tasks can’t be mechanized to reduce the strain on workers. “It’s impossible to do everything with machines – in industry loads are static, but in health care loads are unpredictable and dynamic.”

April 4: Forty registered nurses at Lakeridge Health will receive layoff notices, although the hospital says that they currently have 60 open RN positions throughout the facility (Oshawa This Week, April 4, 2014.) Lakeridge officials say that because of rules in the nurses’ contract they can’t just move a nurse from one job to another. Lakeridge CEO Kevin Empey says that he hopes that most of the nurses will move to other positions within the hospital. Officials say that the creation of a new unit –staffed mainly with registered practical nurses- to serve an overflow of patients waiting for spots in long-term care facilities is one of the motivating factors behind the decision to cut RN positions. “We’ve finally given up and said we have to do something ourselves. We have to reduce our costs, we don’t need an RN sitting with a lot of these patients who don’t need acute care anymore, they need to be in a long-term care home,” said Empey. ONA’s First Vice-President, Vicki McKenna, expressed concern about increased workloads for the nurses who remain and the impact it will have on patient care. “The plans, as they understand them now, will do nothing but increase the workload and we’re very concerned about the quality of care the nurses who are left behind will be able to provide,” she said.

April 3: In a letter to the editor of the Kincardine News, a registered nurse expressed her concern about the future of nursing and health care in Ontario if the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) succeeds in its goal to impose a 3 per cent pay cut on entry level nurses (April 3, 2014.) “I feel that by cutting the entry level nurses salary you will see many new graduates leave Ontario and take jobs in other provinces or the U.S. to get the pay they deserve. These new nurses are vital to the sustainability of our healthcare facilities,” writes RN Diane Jolliffe. She writes that the OHA’s contract proposals to the Ontario Nurses’ Association are “insulting” to nurses and points out that there is already a distinct lack of front-line nurses in Ontario, a number that will continue to fall as thousands of nurses become eligible for retirement in the next decade. New nurses need to be encouraged to enter the profession now to maximize the amount of time that they can learn and receive training from these experienced nurses on the front lines.

April 3: London West’s New Democrat MPP Peggy Sattler accused the government of forcing hospitals to put patients at risk by cutting vital staff positions to balance their bottom lines (London Community News, April 3, 2014.) London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has announced that it must cut the equivalent of 27 full-time nursing positions and 41 full-time cleaners in an effort to manage a $37.2 million budget shortfall. “Does the minister truly believe that the elimination of these nursing and cleaning positions will not have an impact on hands-on quality care in our community?” Sattler asked in the legislature on Tuesday. On March 18 the Ontario Nurses’ Association held a rally at Queen’s Park calling on the government to hire more nurses to address Ontario’s dismal RN-to-population ratio, the second lowest in Canada. Health Minister Deb Matthews went on the defensive and responded that LHSC has said that the cuts will have “no impact on patient care.”

April 1: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is speaking out against the London Health Sciences Centre’s plans to cut nursing hours -equivalent to 27 full-time nurse positions- in an effort to balance the hospital’s budget (CFPL AM, April 1, 2014.) The Union warns that the loss of thousands of nursing hours will be detrimental to patient care. “I don't care how you cut it, that will be a loss to the patients of London Health Sciences Centre and to their families,” said ONA’s First Vice-President Vicki McKenna.

April 2: Firefighters, police officers, executives and a nurse practitioner who is a member of the Ontario Nurses’ Association were among the 142 Chatham-Kent employees who made the province’s 2013 Sunshine List of public-sector employees making at least $100,000 (Chatham This Week, April 2, 2014.)

April 2: The president of ONA Local 100, representing nurses at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), warns that nursing cuts will have a negative impact on patient care in an already overburdened hospital (London Free Press, April 2, 2014.)LHSC has announced that it intends to cut 52,000 nursing hours –the equivalent of 27 full-time nursing positions- to help balance its budget in the upcoming year. The hospital claims that the cuts won’t compromise patient care, but James Murray, a nurse and union leader at LHSC, says that in the last year and a half, nurses have filed almost 400 formal complaints about patient care and many of those complaints were the result of inadequate staffing. “I'm not sure how they can say it won't have an effect on patient care.” The hospital hopes to further reduce spending by negotiating collective agreements for staff members that will cost $5 million less than originally planned. In order to offset a 0.5% reduction in provincial funding and rising operating costs, LHSC must trim a total of $37 million from its budget.

April 1: As the Canada Health Accord expired Monday, protesters including members of ONA and Unifor rallied outside the office of Sault Ste. Marie MPP David Orazietti (sootoday.com, April 1, 2014.)ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has said that while Ontario is the most populous Canadian province it comes second-to-last in terms of its registered nurse-to-population ratio, something that can’t change without support from the federal government. “Our ability to address that grievous gap in nursing care is predicated on the federal government’s equitable funding of the provinces. While Ontario has to address a budgetary freeze for health care funding that has undercut our ability to attract and retain experienced RNs, the federal government bears a responsibility for shortchanging the provinces.”

April 1: Protesters in Sault Ste. Marie including members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association asked Premier Kathleen Wynne why Ontario’s seniors are receiving less care at home despite the province hiring more nurses and personal support workers (The Sault Star, April 1, 2014.) Wynne, who was in the midst of a visit to the Soo Curlers Association, stopped to speak with the protesters and told them “we’re on the same side.” One man told the Premier that home care nurses are being laid off leaving seniors and vulnerable patients without the support they need to stay out of hospitals. Wynne says that her government is willing to work together to ensure that the necessary services are being provided.

April 1: Members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association in Sault Ste. Marie joined protesters from across the country calling on the federal government to take the lead on a new national health accord that would help fill a “nursing gap” that has left the province with the second-lowest registered nurse-to-population ratio in Canada (The Sault Star, April 1, 2014.) Members of a health coalition including ONA participated in rallies outside the Soo Curlers Association and local MP Bryan Hayes’ office. While protesters admit that the province has hired nurses and personal support workers in recent years, they say they “don’t know where they are.”

March 29: 
In a letter to the editor of the London Free Press, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud wrote that the “outrage” over funds spent on front-line care co-ordinators in the province’s Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) is “misdirected” (March 29, 2014.) She clarifies that care co-ordinators are not part of “management” but rather highly skilled and educated nurses who work to ensure that patients in the highest need receive home care on a priority basis. “They make home visits, work out of hospitals...to ensure their patients and families understand their choices on long-term care, provide equitable access, identify risks and provide ongoing, individualized care co-ordination that address unique needs and ensure quality care.” 

March 28: 
Public health nurses working at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will stay on the job after reaching a tentative agreement with their employer (The Chronicle-Journal, March 28, 2014.) The Ontario Nurses’ Association is now arranging for its 58 affected members to meet to hear the details of the agreement and to hold a ratification vote. The nurses’ previous contract expired in 2012.

March 26: Nurses with the Thunder Bay district health unit have a new tentative contract agreement (CKPR TV Thunder Bay, March 26, 2014). The agreement comes following conciliated talks held yesterday. Details of that deal are being withheld pending a ratification vote by the 58 nurses affected. The Ontario Nurses' Association says the health unit nurses here are the lowest paid in the province.

March 26: After just one day of talks assisted by a conciliator, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and its nurses have reached a tentative deal on a new collective agreement (CBC Radio Thunder Bay, March 26, 2014). The settlement came last night. The Ontario Nurses' Association has said its 58 members at the health unit were the lowest paid public health nurses in the province. Arrangements are being made for a ratification vote.

March 26: Thunder Bay region Public Health Nurses have a tentative contract, reached with the help of a provincial conciliator (QP Briefing, March 26, 2014). Details will be released after the agreement is ratified by both sides. The 58 Ontario Nurses’ Association members were considered the lowest paid in the province and had been without a contract for more than a year.

March 26: Nurses in Thunder Bay are staying on the job (Net News Ledger, March 26, 2014). Thunder Bay Public Health Nurses, members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, have announced they have reached a tentative agreement with their employer. The 58 nurses reached agreement with the assistance of a conciliator. Details are confidential until ratified by both sides. The nurses thanked the community for the support they received during negotiations.

March 24: ONA members and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit will resume negotiations (Nurse Newsline, March 24, 2014). The 58 Public Health Nurses – lowest-paid in Ontario and without a contract for more than a year – will head back to the table for the first time since talks broke down on February 3. ONA members will be joined by First Vice-President Vicki McKenna, RN, to assist with conciliation talks. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud notes that, “Public health nurses are vital to keeping those in Thunder Bay healthy…communities depend on the knowledge and skills of our nurses to provide them with the education and services they need to have the best, healthiest life possible.”

March 25: A conciliator has been brought in as negotiations between public health nurses and the district health unit continues (TBNewswatch.com, March 25, 2014). The current agreement expired more than a year ago. Ontario Nurses’ Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the two sides remain separated on the issue of wages. McKenna told CKPR Radio that clients will not be affected while negotiations continue on behalf of the 58 unionized nurses. She says the nurses are some of the lowest-paid in Ontario.

March 25: Talks are resuming between Thunder Bay Public Health Nurses and the Health Unit, with the help of a conciliation officer (QP Briefing, March 25, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that the 58 members will seek a deal following the breakdown of talks on February 3. The nurses are the lowest-paid in the province and have been without a contract for more than a year.

March 25: The Thunder Bay District Health Unit will be back at the table with Public Health Nurses to negotiate a new contract (CBC Radio 1, March 25, 2014). A provincial conciliator will try to help the two parties reach an agreement. ONA members say their last contract expired over a year ago, and the union says they are the lowest-paid public health nurses in the province.

March 24: A letter to the editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal (March 24, 2014) expresses thanks to the public for their support of Public Health Nurses during an information picket on February 19. Kandace Belanger, co-Bargaining Unit President of ONA Local 14, writes that the nurses are happy to inform the community that they will be back at negotiations with their employer today, and hope to achieve a negotiated contract with the help of a conciliator. Belanger writes that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” She adds that with hospitals in gridlock, the current health system doesn’t have enough resources for preventative measures. The community has been supportive and understanding of the nurses, and she again expresses thanks.

March 20: Nurses across Ontario continue to fight what they feel is an attack on their profession across the province (CFCO AM Chatham, March 20, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that RNs have been experiencing continuing cuts, specifically in the hospital sector, and hospitals have been balancing their budgets on the backs of nurses. She believes the quality of care is suffering. Nurses held a rally at Queen’s Park this week to protest.

March 24: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is warning of a dire medical situation and says it needs another 18,000 nurses just to be on par with the rest of the country (Metro Ottawa, March 24, 2014). Vicki McKenna, ONA First Vice-President, says there is already a nursing shortage in Ontario and if something isn’t done fast, “chaotic” situations in Ontario hospitals could get worse. “The reality is that we are an aging workforce,” she says, “so these nurses are going to retire and we are not graduating enough new nurses into the system.” Ontario has the second-lowest RN-to-population ratio; a new study published in The Lancet shows that for every extra patient added to a nurse’s workload, the chance of a surgical patient dying within 30 days of admission rises by seven per cent. With the province having chopped 1,200 full-time nursing positions, hospitals are running over capacity, with overworked and sick staff. ONA says that part of the problem is that full-time RN positions barely exist anymore. New graduates often are faced with the option of working as a casual or temporary employee with no job security, health benefits, sick days or vacation. Teirsa St-Jean is just such a nurse – a 22-year-old new graduate, with lots of temporary work but nothing full-time. The Ministry of Health says there are 20,510 more nurses employed in Ontario than there were 10 years ago. Ontario is second only to Quebec in the amount of money it spends on overtime nursing hours; in 2012, nurses’ overtime cost the province more than $171 million, money that could be spent hiring more full-time nurses, says NDP Health Critic France Gelinas.

March 20: Ontario nurses are really feeling “left behind compared with other civil servants” (CKGL AM Kitchener-Waterloo, March 20, 2014). Keith Leslie, a Canadian Press reporter, was interviewed by the Gary Doyle Show when an ONA representative wasn’t available. He said the nurses were one of the few groups that had a two-year wage freeze and they have done their bit. They don’t want to agree to concessions. Leslie says that if you’ve “ever actually spent any time at a hospital, you know it’s the doctor you see for five minutes a day and it’s a nurse you see for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes. The nurses are the ones that take care of you.” Leslie says they’re well paid but they work “ridiculously long hours and in a very, very demanding situation...I don’t think anyone begrudges them their money.” Leslie also believes it’s possible that Ontario will see a repeat of what happened in the 1980s and ‘90s, with new nursing graduates moving to the U.S. to practice because of available jobs and better pay. Nurses work 12-hour shifts that are very physically demanding and “end up doing all that other type of work the rest of the time on top of their health care stuff…they get so much piled on them, it’s incredible,” said Leslie. He believes that nurses have a strong union that is not only trying to protect the nurses, but to a large part, to protect the system as it exists.

March 20: About 200 nurses have participated in a protest in front of Queen’s Park (CTV News Sudbury, March 20, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says hospitals are looking to make deep cuts to nursing, including their wages and benefits, and this will only hurt patients. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that there is a seven-per-cent increase in death and disease rates “for every patient added to my RN workload, and that’s what we’re seeing out there as they’re cutting and cutting and cutting the RNs in Ontario.” The current collective agreement for hospital RNs expires on March 31.

March 20: ONA continues to call for more nurses to be hired (CKAT North Bay, March 20, 2014).  Hundreds of front-line nurses and nursing students rallied at Queen’s Park, saying new hires are needed to improve patient care. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that Ontario has the second-worst RN-to-population ratio in the country. Many RNs are poised to retire and Ontario needs to aggressively attract new replacements.

March 20: ONA continues to call on the province to hire more nurses (CKTB St. Catharines, March 20, 2014). Hundreds of RNs and nursing students rallied at the legislature, calling for new hires to improve patient care. The nurses say that while the issue is about jobs, it’s primarily about patient care. “We’re not giving medications soon enough, we’re not tending to the needs of their love ones soon enough.” The Ontario Health Minister denies the claims of cutbacks.

March 21:
A first-time collective agreement has been reached for nursing staff at Grand River CHC (Brantford Expositor, March 21, 2014). The tentative deal was reached on March 12 and has been ratified by both the Ontario Nurses’ Association members and their employer. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that a strike has been successfully averted. “This is a positive step,” she said. “The majority of health centres in Ontario have not joined HOOPP” – HOOPP is the nurses’ pension plan. The agreement also addresses nurses’ concerns about workload.

March 19:
Le telejournal Ontario (March 19, 2014) interviewed ONA member Gaetane Blom and CFNU President Linda Silas at the rally. The two said that more RNs mean better, safer care for patients. Again, the Health Minister insisted there are 4,000 more nurses in Ontario. Gaetane encouraged people to contact their MPPs and insist that political candidates commit to improving health care in Ontario.

March 19: CTV News at Six (March 19, 2014) reports that hundreds of nurses demonstrated outside Queen’s Park today. The reporter said that “we all know they carry the load in our health care system, but while firefighters and police and other public servants have been getting raises, the nurses have had their salaries frozen.” The Ontario Nurses’ Association is saying that cutbacks are happening, even if the government insists it’s hiring more nurses. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said, “Our patients are not getting proper care. We’re pushing them into a hallway and putting a stick-it note on the hallway and that is where they are for days on end.” The negotiations have gone to arbitration. Andy Summers of ONA says that research has shown that RNs save lives and save money, too. The Health Minister insists her government has seen 4,000 net new nursing positions created in four years, but critics point out that doesn’t mean that 4,000 new nurses have been hired.

March 19: Ontario RNs will rally at Queen’s Park to call for safer patient care (CJOJ AM Guelph, CHOK FM Sarnia, CFLY FM Kingston, March19, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says Ontario has cut more than 1,000 RN positions since 2012.

March 19: More than 150 RNs plan to rally at Queen’s Park to call for more nurses and safer patient care in Ontario (CKNX AM Wingham, March 19, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that more than 1,000 RN positions have been cut in the province since 2012, and just to close the gap of nursing care means the province would have to hire more than 17,000 more nurses.

March 19: Ontario Nurses’ Association members are meeting in Toronto to hear details of the plan by hospitals to roll back their wages and benefits (CBC Radio 1 Windsor, March 19, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that patients will be the biggest losers in the dispute because the proposed cuts will have an impact on the quality of care.

March 19: Ontario Nurses’ Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province has cut more than 1,000 RN positions since 2012 (CJQM Sault Ste. Marie, March 19, 2014). She and 150 RNs plan to rally at Queen’s Park to call for more nurses.

March 19: More than 150 registered nurses will be rallying at Queen’s Park (CFMJ AM Toronto, March 19, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association members say they’re pushing for safer patient care in Ontario as well as more nurses. More than 1,000 RN positions have been slashed since 2012, which ONA says leaves Ontario with the second-worst RN-to-population ratio in Canada.

March 19: The former CEO of Hamilton Health Sciences Murray Martin says that Ontario can no longer afford its health system (Toronto Star, March 19, 2014). He says it’s time the government muster the courage to force more hospital mergers. “With the economic reality in Ontario, there are a lot of really tough decisions that are going to have to be made,” he said. “I think there are opportunities for very significant, further consolidations.” He says that when interest rates start to rise again, the province will be under even greater pressures to finance its mounting debt by making big health cuts. Martin said he hopes that an arbitrator looking at the dispute between the province’s RNs and hospitals is “mindful of Ontario’s fiscal reality.” The Ontario Nurses’ Association, which held a rally at Queen’s Park, argues that hospitals are already underfunded and that 1,000 RN jobs have been cut in the last two years to the detriment of patients. ONA also claims that the OHA is seeking concessions equal to a three-per-cent wage roll back and warns that would lead to nurses looking for jobs in greener pastures.

March 20: Ontario nurses and their supporters rallied at Queen’s Park to complain that they are being overworked and undervalued following the breakdown of negotiations with Ontario hospitals (Toronto Sun, March 20, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said nurses are being told that they are “rich” and should accept wage and benefit rollbacks. She called this round of hospital bargaining “despicable” in relation to the lack of value of nurses. OHA President Anthony Dale said the two sides were unable to reach an agreement after months of negotiations and the contract is now before an arbitrator. Haslam-Stroud said that she believes that what is driving this is “inappropriate funding for the hospitals. And the hospitals have basically been silenced.” Health Minister Deb Matthews said she considers negotiations to be a matter between the ONA and the OHA. “I don’t think anybody’s talking about a pay cut,” she said.

March 19: Nurses gathered outside Queen’s Park to protest cuts to hospital jobs on Wednesday, though Health Minister Deb Matthews says the government has hired thousands of new nurses since it came to power (QP Briefing, March 19, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association members are in arbitration talks with the Ontario Hospital Association. President Linda Haslam-Stroud, herself an RN, said an increase in the overall number of nurses doesn’t help the issue of fewer RNs on the floor in hospitals. Ontario has the second-worst RN per capita ratio in the country, with seven RNs for every 1,000 people. “It’s not good enough to tell me that I’m the backbone when you’re actually taking apart my spine,” said Haslam-Stroud. She adds that the cuts to hospital RN jobs have hurt patient care, resulting in an increase in disease and death rates for every patient who is added to an RN’s workload. The OHA is proposing a three-per-cent wage cut to the starting salary for new RN graduates, meaning that new nurses would earn $26,000 less in the first eight years of their careers.

March 18: Ontario nurses met today to learn more about a potential wage cutback and the Ontario Nurses’ Association is warning that patients will be the biggest losers if the cuts proceed (CJBK AM London, CKTB AM St. Catharines, CKPT FM Peterborough, CFMZ FM Toronto, CFMJ AM Toronto, CBC Radio Ottawa, CKGL AM Kitchener-Waterloo, CHML AM Hamilton, CFCO AM Chatham, CJQM FM Sault Ste. Marie, CJOY AM Guelph, CKNX-AM Wingham, March 18, 2014). Cuts will affect the quality of care, says ONA. The Ontario Hospital Association wants to roll back nurses’ wages and benefits.

March 18: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says nurses are “livid” with the government and OHA after contract negotiations broke down late last week over concession demands (QP Briefing, March 18, 2014). The OHA walked away from talks with ONA over a new deal and entered arbitration seeking concessions. “The nurses of Ontario are absolutely livid that this government and the OHA cannot negotiate a fair collective agreement that reflects the value we provide to our patients every day,” said Haslam-Stroud. She said that her members are meeting in Toronto and the atmosphere is tense, disappointed and angry. The nurses will rally at Queen’s Park today at noon to press their demands. “We were continuing to try and negotiate, we had a mediator available, and the [OHA] basically said no, that’s not in the cards,” she said. Haslam-Stroud says the OHA is seeking “draconian” concessions, including wage restraint after ONA willingly took a two-year wage freeze. The OHA’s negotiating limits are agreed to by the government; the OHA also wants to cut incoming nurses’ salaries by three per cent, roll back salary top-ups for more highly specialized nurses and is challenging ONA’s call for more nurses.

March 17: Ontario’s nurses and hospitals are awaiting a decision from an arbitrator on contract talks (CFOB Fort Frances, March 17, 2014). Arbitration was held on the weekend after talks broke down last week. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the offer made by the OHA was just not acceptable. “The nurses of Ontario are absolutely disgusted that the hospitals are recommending rollbacks in our wages, and are also looking for rollbacks in our benefits in their proposals with the arbitration board,” she said.

March 14: There is still no contract in place for the approximately 1,300 members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association in Kingston (CKWS TV, March 14, 2014). Collective bargaining between the Ontario Hospital Association and ONA is “through.” The contract for hospital RNs across the province expires at the end of the month. ONA says that its members’ wages have been frozen for two years, and now they’re being asked to take a three-per-cent wage cut. The impasse means that talks will now head to arbitration.

March 15: CTV London (March 15, 2014) says that a nursing crisis is on the horizon after contract talks between the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the OHA broke down. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the “government’s position is actually despicable. The wage reductions proposed [for nurses] would actually make us the lowest-paid nurses, outside Quebec. So new grads that are looking for work are going to look where they are respected, where they have nominal wages and benefits.” The OHA says it’s hard to find what’s affordable for contract proposals during an “unprecedented time of financial restraints.”

March 17: QPBriefing (March 17, 2014) reports that the Ontario Nurses’ Association is warning that concessions demanded by the Ontario Hospital Association will have a profound impact on the care Ontarians receive. Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the OHA walked away from bargaining with the union last week and the two spent the weekend in arbitration. Patients will be the biggest losers in the dispute, she says, noting that concessions demanded by the OHA will “send a strong message that nurses are not valued and will likely prompt new nursing graduates to look south of the border or to other provinces to practice.”

March 19: More than 150 RNs – members of the Ontario Nurses’ Association – will rally at Queen’s Park today to call for more nurses (Canadian Press News Agenda, March 19, 2014). The rally begins at 12:15 pm.

March 19: More than 150 registered nurses plan to rally at Queen’s Park this afternoon to call for more nurses and safer patient care (Broadcast News, March 19, 2014). Ontario Nurses’ Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province has cut more than 1,000 RN positions since 2012, leaving Ontario with the second-worst nurse-to-population ratio in Canada. Just to close the gap would require Ontario to hire more than 17,000 new nurses.

March 14: Nominations are being sought for the seventh annual Lois A. Fairley Nursing Award (Tecumseh Shoreline Week, March 14, 2014). The award honours nurses’ contributions to caring for the residents of Windsor-Essex County. It is named after Lois Fairley, who served at Grace Hospital from 1955 to 1993, filled the roles of head nurse and nursing student mentor, and served as President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association. Fairley was an advocate for the nursing profession and the patients in their care. Nominations should be submitted to the Windsor Essex chapter of the RNAO.

March 13: Four NPs and one RN at the Grand River CHC have reached a tentative agreement with their employer (Brant News, March 13, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says the nurses have been trying to reach the agreement since October 2013. Details are confidential until both the nurses and the CHC ratify the agreement.

March 13: NPs and an RN at Grand River CHC have reached a tentative agreement (Brantford Expositor, March 13, 2014). The tentative deal means there will be no disruption in services provided by the centre to local residents. Ratification votes will take place March 13. The ONA members have been working to get a first collective agreement since October 2013. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said the “extraordinary services provided by our NPs and RN at the centre enable more than 2,600 people to receive primary care. The value of these dedicated nurses is clear to their patients and the community and achieving an agreement means the employer now recognizes this as well.”

March 12: Ontario Nurses’ Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the approach taken to nurse staffing at Windsor Regional Hospital is to be lauded (Windsor Star, March 12, 2014). A study was recently released on nursing cuts, caseloads and nursing education levels and their impact on mortality rates of surgical patients within 30 days. McKenna credits WRH for the skills mix and education of its staff as well as its flexibility in trying to keep nurse-to-patient ratios low. She says that the hospital is “one of the better known administrations for sitting down with their staff to discuss things and getting to solutions.” The hospital has 1,515 RNs spread between its campuses, up slightly over the past two years, at a time when the Ontario College of Nurses reports 801 full-time RN jobs have been lost in the province. The hospital also employs 163 RPNs. The study revealed that nursing education levels had a direct impact on patient mortality rates. A 10-per-cent increase in the number of nursing staff holding BAs resulted in a drop of seven per cent in mortality rates. There is an hourly pay difference between an RPN and an RN of about $10 to $20. Dianne Martin, director of the RPNAO, says the study confirms concerns about caseloads across the profession. She is also concerned about the workload increases for nurses and the compromised ability of nurses to do the job.

March 11: Pam Mancuso, an RN from Sault Area Hospital and ONA vice-president, joined members of the Ontario Health Coalition in asking Sudbury residents to vote against what they say is a provincial plan to open more-profit clinics (Sudbury Star, March 11, 2014). Mancuso says that ONA’s motto is to “never give up” and she notes that experiments with for-profit clinics to date have failed to save money. The group held a rally yesterday to defend the city’s hospital, charging that private clinics will erode services at community hospitals because they will skim easy procedures, leaving the most difficult cases for hospitals to handle. Mancuso notes that “our grandparents and parents fought hard for the [health care] system we have. Let’s make the public aware of the OHC’s Save Our Services campaign.

March 10: RNs working in a post-acute care unit of Rouge Valley Health System have been “unable to provide proper patient care” because of the way the unit is being run, an expert panel has found (Scarborough Mirror, March 10, 2014). Three years ago, the hospital replaced half the RNs and RPNs with personal support workers. ONA alleged the number of nurses had fallen to an unsafe level; following a three-day hearing, the panel concluded the number of RNs assigned was appropriate, but the nurses were unable to provide proper care due to the “manner in which the care delivery model and associated staffing and unit processes have been implemented.” The panel made 50 recommendations to deal with the nurses’ workload complaints. Amelia McCutcheon, Rouge Valley’s chief nursing executive, said the hospital is working on 49 of the 50 recommendations and more than half have been completed. She says that both ONA and the hospital want to “create a quality practice environment” and the panel recommended that the hospital must also work with the nurses on best practices. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the panel has validated RNs’ concerns and the changes will do much to improve patient health outcomes and the work lives of nurses.

March 6: Hundreds of nurses – including ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, CFNU President Linda Silas, and UNA President Heather Smith – marched through downtown Vancouver to rally for safe staffing levels and safe patient care (Nurse Newsline, Times Colonist, March 6, 2014). BCNU President Debra McPherson says the health care system needs more, not fewer nurses. “Patients need safe staffing levels. Without it, safe patient care is at risk.” She noted that patients are suffering from the callous disregard of health authorities for everything but the bottom line. In Nanaimo, a new cost-cutting care model has replaced nurses with care aides, and next month, 100 nurses will be cut in Victoria. ONA is currently airing TV ads across Ontario to inform the public of RN cuts that have occurred. Ontario has the second-lowest RN-to-population ratio in the country – only BC has fewer RNs.

March 7: A report from an independent panel assessing complaints by nurses at Rouge Valley hospital confirms that nurses have been unable to provide “proper patient care” in a post-acute unit that deals mostly with seniors (Toronto Star, March 7, 2014). The report says that patients have “suffered significantly” because there are too many part-time workers and urges the hospital to drop a tightly scripted scheduling regimen that essentially dictates precisely what staff should be doing during their shifts. There are 50 recommendations and the hospital’s chief nursing executive says most have already been acted on. Rouge Valley is now part of discussion on a merger with The Scarborough Hospital and doctors are concerned that the costly merger may be paid for by cutting patient services. The Scarborough doctors sent a message to the board saying that while they support the merger, they are worried about where the funding will come from.

March 6: “Rows and rows” of nurses marched in solidarity in Vancouver yesterday to spread a simple message: the province needs more nurses and better health care (Metro Vancouver, March 6, 2014). BC nurses’ union president Debra McPherson led the rally alongside the nurses’ union leaders from Ontario and Alberta. McPherson says “we’ve seen how this callous disregard for the bottom line has impacted British Columbians,” and patients are suffering. Across BC, nurses are working short-staffed and it’s reached a point where the nurses’ union is demanding increased staffing now. CFNU President Linda Silas says that safe nurse staffing saves lives.

March 6: The Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) is at its strongest funded position in more than a decade at a funded ratio of 114 per cent (Financial Post, March 6, 2014). The plan has a record $51.6 billion in net assets and enjoyed an 8.55-per-cent rate of return in 2013. President and CEO Jim Keohane says this shows that a defined benefits pension model works well. The plan was created in 1960 and is governed by a board of trustees with representation from the Ontario Nurses’ Association, CUPE, OPSEU and SEIU as well as the Ontario Hospital Association.

March 4: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says the nurses at the Nipigon Memorial Hospital have been trying to find solutions to low staffing levels (CKTG News, March 4, 2014). Now, an expert panel has been called in for three days of hearings into the nurses’ worries. Having the IAC called in, says McKenna, “is sort of…the end of the line here.” The panel will make recommendations at a later date.

February 26:
ONA is warning Toronto patients that two of the city’s busiest ERs remain dangerous places for those seeking care (Nurse Newsline, February 26, 2014). A full year after a panel of experts made 40 recommendations to improve patient care and safety at Humber River Regional Hospital’s ERs, the hospital has not taken action. Patients and staff are at risk because of understaffing, inadequate infection control and escalating violence. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says it is “outrageous” that patients continue to be subjected to these conditions. ONA says the hospital continues to use government funding inappropriately for ambulance offloads, fails to provide a safe work environment related to insufficient security staffing, houses acutely ill ICU patients in the ER without appropriate RN staffing, and fails to provide facilities to enable proper infection control procedures.

March 3:
ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that “staffing levels in Ontario’s long-term care homes have not quite kept up with the increasing complexity of care that is required.” McKenna was commenting on an announcement by Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews that 75 new nurse practitioners will be hired for LTC homes, to take pressure off overcrowded hospitals by cutting down on ambulance transfers of residents (Toronto Star, March 3, 2014). McKenna says she hopes that this is the first of “many more [announcements] that will add more nurses, to build the capacity today so that we can address the health-care needs in long-term care.” Matthews says she does not agree with ONA and the RNAO that Ontario needs at least 9,000 more RNs. RNs say they are being replaced in hospitals by RPNs, to the detriment of patients. RNs have university degrees and the skills and training to care for sicker residents than do RPNs. RNs are also paid more.

February 28: A new European report suggests that changes in nursing levels could put patients at risk (CFRB AM, February 28, 2014). ONA is saying that patients’ lives are being put at risk in a very large ad campaign they are now running, “likely in preparation for a provincial election.” Reporter Mark Towhey says ONA wants people to be scared. He says that ONA is saying that patients have died because there aren’t enough RNs, and they’re also saying that specifically at Humber River Regional Hospital, RNs are being replaced with less-educated nurses. Dianne Martin, executive director of the RPNAO, says that RPNs have been contributing to hospitals for a long time. RPNs are “high-functioning, very knowledgeable” and care about what’s happening to patients. RNs deal with more critically ill patients and RPNs deal with more stable patients. A triage nurse should always be an RN and Martin notes that the province may very well need 17,000 more RNs but ONA isn’t saying we don’t also need more RPNs. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that ONA believes the ERs of the Humber sites are a “ticking time bomb.” She notes that an expert panel heard of the issues a year ago and made 40 recommendations to improve the ER but a year later, the hospital has failed to move forward with them. She notes that nurses are “change agents” and will be there for patients, but Humber is not providing an environment where patients get what they need and deserve as patients.

February 28: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that staffing problems at Humber River Regional Hospital’s two ERs makes them dangerous places for patients (CFMZ, February 28, 2014). ONA says that patient care is being compromised mostly because they lack an adequate number of RNs. President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that when other parts of the hospital are full, acutely ill ICU patients are being housed in the ER without the proper number of RNs to care for them. RNs are being replaced with cheaper RPNs. The CEO denies the allegations.

February 27: An information picket set outside the Grand River Community Health Centre in Brantford was intended to draw attention to the issue of a first contract for nurses working there (CKPC FM, February 27, 2014). The ONA members say they are concerned about the refusal of their employer to bargain with them, and that heavy workloads are risking patient care. They are also very concerned about their patients’ care should they be forced to strike next month.

March 1: Workplace bullying is “a big deal in Kingston,” says therapist Richard Schwindt, and it tends to happen most often in the public sector (Kingston Whig-Standard, March 1, 2014). Later this year, the Ontario Nurses’ Association will host a workshop in Kingston on bullying and mobbing. VP Andy Summers says that “nursing is a predominantly female profession. Nurses have a characteristic of caring for patients and not themselves. That’s what leaves nurses susceptible to bullying.” He says that nurses have historically been bullied by managers and doctors. He also says that older nurses can come together to single out a younger nurse or that the bullying situation can happen in reverse.

February 28: Humber River Hospital President Rueben Devlin is “firing back” against ONA, which earlier this week warned patients that the hospital’s ERs are dangerous for those seeking care (North York Mirror, February 28, 2014). Devlin called ONA’s statement “misleading” and says it does not reflect the reality of care at Humber River Regional Hospital. ONA blames the hospital for failing to take action a year after an expert panel made 40 recommendations to improve safety and care. The association says that patients are at risk due to understaffing, inadequate infection control and escalating violence. The hospital has a long list of infractions including failing to have enough security guards in the ER when there is regular gang-related violence in the hospital, housing acutely ill ICU patients in the ER without appropriate nursing staff, failing to facilitate proper infection control procedures, and some unregulated staff misrepresenting themselves as doctors.

February 28: ONA is concerned that staffing issues, including an insufficient number of registered nurses, have made Humber River Regional Hospital’s two emergency departments “dangerous places” for patients (Toronto Star, February 28, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that RNs are being replaced with less expensive registered practical nurses who are working beyond their scope of practice. But the hospital’s CEO Dr. Rueben Devlin says that Humber River Regional’s ERs are safe and that extra RNs are implemented on an as-needed basis. “Much of what they (ONA) said, I believe to be erroneous.” Devlin acknowledged that some RN positions have been “converted” to RPNs but maintains that RPNs only work with patients they are trained to be able to help.

February 28: Nurses at the Grand River Community Health Centre including fours nurse practitioners and one registered nurse held an information picket to raise public awareness of their efforts negotiating their first collective agreement (The Brantford Expositor, February 28, 2014.) The nurses organized last May but negotiations have stalled on issues including wages and workloads. The nurses want wages comparable to those earned at the Guelph Community Health Centre but the health centre’s executive director Peter Szota says that with the current budget the nurses’ demands can’t be met. "The budget situation (at the health centre) has never been tighter. What is being asked for (by the nurses) is not affordable."Still Szota says that the centre remains “completely committed” to reaching an agreement with nurses and preventing a work disruption from occurring.  The nurses also hope to avoid a strike; they hope that their information picket will raise public pressure and force the centre’s board of directors to act. This article also appears on the website brantfordexpositor.ca under the headline “HEALTH: Grand River Community Health Centre says it can’t afford raises” (February 27, 2014.)

February 27: ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna warns that patients may suffer and even die if registered nursing positions are cut at St. Joseph’s Health Care in London (The St. Catharines Standard, February 27, 2014) The hospital recently announced cuts, which include 8 RN positions, they say are needed to manage a 5 per cent budget shortfall.  While a spokesperson for St. Joseph’s says that they can still “deliver safe and quality care with a different skill mix”, the Union remains skeptical. McKenna says that staff who are brought in to replace RNs have different training and levels of experience, leaving them ill-equipped to deliver “optimal care to patients with complex needs.”

February 27: In a letter to the editor in The Sarnia Observer, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud urges Ontarians not to discount the “valuable health-care services and quality patient care” that the staff of Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) provide (February 27, 2014.) The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario and former deputy health minister Michael Decter have recently called for the dismantling of the province’s CCACs which that say are bogged down with “needless bureaucracy.” While ONA acknowledges that there is room for improvement to ensure that CCAC Care Coordinators are able to provide the best care possible, the system can be fixed. “Any proposal to eliminate CCACs will undoubtedly hurt our patients, who rely on receiving much-needed home care services.” ONA has made several recommendations of ways to fix the CCAC system including eliminating the need to contract out services to various providers by instead having the CCAC provide all home care.

February 24: More health-care facilities across Canada are embracing mandatory “mask-or-flu shot” policies for visitors (National Post, February 24, 2014.)In British Columbia, all visitors to hospitals and long-term care facilities must wear a surgical mask if they have not been vaccinated against the flu; a similar policy has been adopted by at least three Ontario hospitals. An ongoing debate surrounds the implementation of similar policies for hospital staff, including nurses. Unions including the Ontario Nurses’ Association have protested the identification and “shaming” of staff members who choose not to receive the flu shot for personal reasons. “Nurses are intelligent people. [Some] make a very specific decision not to get immunized, so there must be a valid reason,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “And now you want to pinpoint them across the public, saying he or she didn’t take it? … It’s ridiculous.” Nurses unions are advocating for more comprehensive infection-control policies that protect patients while respecting the rights of staff.

February 26: A major new study supports ONA’s contention, based on numerous research studies, that patients are put at risk when nursing workloads increase and nursing positions are cut. The new study of more than 420,000 patients in 300 European hospitals, just published in the Lancet, shows patients are more likely to die after common surgical procedures in hospitals where RNs have heavier workloads (Hamilton Spectator/Toronto Star, February 26, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, quoted in the article, says hospitals and government should take note that patient health outcomes are detrimentally impacted when there are fewer RNs to take care of patients. "Without RNs providing care, near misses are becoming common," Haslam-Stroud warned recently in a pre-budget submission to an Ontario government legislative committee.

February 13: ONA member Cindy Sandercock has first-hand experience of the impacts of a growing workload and worries about front-line nursing cuts (Northumberland News, February 13, 2014). The Northumberland Hills Hospital ER nurse says she is always worried that patients could be getting better care if nurses had more time. The hospital’s VP of patient services and chief nursing executive says that it has been harder in recent years to attract experienced RNs, “particularly for specialty areas [such as] intensive care, emergency and dialysis.” Sandercock urges government and policy makers to consider the impact that the reduction of nursing hours and jobs in the province have. Both the Ontario Nurses’ Association and the RNAO are calling for more nursing jobs to be created in Ontario.

February 13: The CEO of the Erie-St. Clair local health integration network (LHIN), Gary Switzer, feels that family doctors should “answer to LHINs” (Courier Press, February 13, 2014.)In a presentation to the provincial committee reviewing the province’s LHINs, Switzer pointed out that the current system allows physicians to retire with little to no warning and with no support for patients who are left without a doctor. "When doctors' offices are closed, hospitals are the busiest," he said. "When you look at over 90% of the people that come into the emergency room, (they) can be managed in primary care." Switzer said that this leads to bed shortages and higher costs. ONA also made several recommendations to the standing committee including mandating safer RN staffing levels.

February 11: The Ontario Nurses’ Association has echoed the sentiments of the Ontario Health Coalition regarding a trend toward moving services out of hospitals and into not-for-profit agencies (The Sarnia Observer, February 11, 2014). In its submission to Ontario’s Standing Committee on Social Policy reviewing the province’s LHINs, ONA recommended that enabling LHINs to tender contracts for the movement of clinical services out of public hospitals and into private clinics be stopped. “Enabling further fragmentation of care does not facilitate the delivery of quality care in the public interest,” read the submission. In addition, ONA said that “eroding safe hospital care by shifting this funding to fund community initiatives that move services out of hospitals is counterproductive and dangerous for patients.” Erie St. Clair LHIN CEO Gary Switzer said the LHIN is “not transferring any other services out of the hospital unless they belong in the community.”

February 10: 
QP Briefing (February 10, 2014) included ONA’s stakeholder launch event of the More Nurses campaign in its calendar of events.

February 10: ONA says that more RNs and better, safer care are needed for patients, not more nursing cuts (Nurses Newsline, February 10, 2014). ONA is calling for an end to the cuts and launched a new ad campaign to raise awareness of the need for more RNs for the province. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, speaking at a launch event for stakeholders, said “More RNs means better, safer patient care. The research is clear on this, and with this campaign, ONA is calling for an end to the RN cuts that are hurting our patients.” The multi-media campaign includes a TV commercial airing across the province, a website – www.morenurses.ca – and pre-roll video. Haslam-Stroud noted that the province continues to have the second-worst RN-to-patient ratio in the country and that more than 1,000 RN positions have been deleted in the past two years.

February 10: ONA says the province needs more nurses, not nursing cuts, for better, safer patient care for patients (DigitalJournal, February 10, 2014). The organization today launched a new ad campaign to raise awareness of the need for more registered nurses for the province. Speaking at ONA's stakeholder launch event this morning, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN said that, "More RNs means better, safer patient care. The research is clear on this, and with this campaign, ONA is calling for an end to the RN cuts that are hurting our patients." The multi-media campaign consists of a television commercial airing across the province, on-line ads, pre-roll video and a website - www.morenurses.ca. The TV commercial can be viewed at www.morenurses.ca and a video of the campaign launch will be available soon on YouTube.

January 31:
The federal finance minister has lifted the HST from hospital parking fees, effective January 24 (Toronto Star, January 31, 2014). Carol Goar writes in her column that the initiative won’t save patients or their visitors much, though for a parent visiting their child at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital, every $2.60 helps. The move doesn’t “get to the heart of the problem” writes Goar. Three years ago, the Canadian Medical Association Journal called for an outright abolition of hospital parking fees, arguing that they are a financial barrier to health care. A CBC Marketplace episode surveyed 1,000 Canadians and 52 per cent said parking costs affect how often they visit hospital. Vicki McKenna, Vice-President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, said that “decisions should be made about patients and patient care and the quality of health services – not about how much revenue [a hospital] can make” on parking fees. Health Minister Deb Matthews continues to turn a blind eye to the financial stress hospitals impose on the ill and elderly. Goar adds that hospital administrators have lost sight of the fundamental purpose of medicare: to provide all Canadians with medically necessary services regardless of their ability to pay.

January 23: In a letter to the editor of the Essex Free Press, Helle Little, a registered nurse and ONA staff member, expressed her “extreme disappointment” that Essex MP Jeff Watson (Conservative) has failed in his elected duty to “represent and respond” to his constituents (January 23, 2014). Little has written both Watson and Prime Minister Stephen Harper several letters over the years and has never received a response. She says she feels that while she and many of her fellow constituents “fight for jobs and decent pensions,” Watson is failing to earn his own wages and pension when he refuses to fulfill his obligations and offer even the most basic responses to the people in his riding.

January 23: ONA Vice-President Anne Clark spoke at the recent Provincial Pre-Budget Consultation meeting in Kingston, reinforcing the need to hire more registered nurses (CKWS TV, January 23, 2014.) Ontario’s current nurse-to-patient ratio is below the national average and understaffing is leading to overworked and exhausted nurses.

January 23: Speaking at a pre-budget consultation in Kingston, ONA Vice-President Anne Clark called on the provincial government to hire more registered nurses and stop the hospital cuts and underfunding that are impacting the ability to provide safe patient care (CKWS TV, January 23, 2014). During the “emotional” presentation, Clark stated that Ontario currently has the lowest RN-to-patient ratio in Canada and said that something needs to be done “before it’s too late.” The Liberals have defended Health Minister Deb Matthews’ decision to restructure health-care funding, moving health-care dollars “from the hospital to community” because “that’s the right thing to do.”

January 21: With consultations underway into the next provincial budget, registered nurses are calling for more hospital funding to hire RNs, a move they say will actually reduce health care costs over time (CBC TV, January 21, 2014). Colleen Morrow of ONA says that studies show the more RNs you have, “you will actually save money in the long run.”

January 21: ONA member Colleen Morrow says ONA is addressing the need for more nurses in the province (CKTG News, January 21, 2014). An executive member of ONA, Morrow said she would be working to enlighten the committee at the pre-budget consultations held in Thunder Bay about the nursing shortage issues out there, particularly in the hospital sector.

January 23: A letter to the editor of the London Free Press (January 23, 2014) expresses support for London nurses who have refused to have a flu shot. Maryellen Learn writes that everyone has the legal right to refuse a flu shot and any attempt to force nurses to have one is a violation of their rights. Learn believes the policy is more about “pharmaceuticals being business and wanting money than it is about the public’s well-being. She notes that she has seen first-hand how dedicated nurses are, and how during the SARS outbreak nurses put their lives at risk to treat people. She adds that “demanding that nurses who haven’t had the shot wear masks is a humiliation tactic designed to punish a nurse who exercises the same right the public has.”

January 22:
The Windsor Star (January 22, 2014) reports on the problem of violent attacks in nursing homes. Across the country, there are urgent calls to better track incidents of seniors being fatally attacked or residents with dementia wandering away, and to act on inquest recommendations that could prevent future tragedies among older, or mentally ill people. Homicides in Ontario homes prompted the Ontario Nurses’ Association to call on the province to act on key recommendations from a previous inquest, held in 2005 into the deaths of two residents at the Casa Verde nursing home in Toronto. A jury delivered 85 recommendations.

January 21:
Today’s provincial pre-budget consultations will include a presentation from the Ontario Nurses’ Association (CKTG News, January 21, 2014). ONA’s Colleen Morrow will address the need for more nurses in the province.

January 21: ONA is calling on the government to end RN cuts and hospital underfunding (Northumberlandview.com, January 21, 2014). ONA is also calling for the government to fund a multi-year action plan to hire and maintain RN position in all health care sectors. In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs in Thunder Bay today, ONA member Colleen Morrow, RN-EC, cited research that shows the link between RN staffing levels and improved health outcomes. The current RN cuts are a direct result of base hospital funding that has been less than the rate of inflation and cost of population growth since fiscal 2008, and zero per cent in the past two fiscal years. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said it’s a “little-known fact” that Ontario has the second-lowest RN-to-population ratio in the country, with just seven RNs per 1,000 Ontarians.

January 21: The Ontario Nurses’ Association “spoke their mind” at an Ontario pre-budget consultation session this morning in Thunder Bay (CJUK News, January 21, 2014). Colleen Morrow says they are telling the finance minister that Ontario needs more nurses.

January 21: The Ontario Nurses’ Association will ask the province today to end cuts to RN positions and hire more nurses (CBC Radio 1 Thunder Bay, January 21, 2014). ONA is among a dozen groups making presentations in Thunder Bay today to a committee of the Ontario legislature.

January 15: ONA is calling on the provincial government to end the underfunding of hospitals and cuts to RN positions (Exchange Morning Post, January 15, 2014). At a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs, ONA’s Jo Anne Shannon, RN provided examples from the St. Catharines site of the Niagara Health System of how RN cuts have hurt patients. She also cited research showing the direct link between RN staffing levels and improved health outcomes. Hospital funding has not kept up with inflation rates during the past four years and RN staffing levels in many hospitals have put patients at risk, says ONA. Hospitals are looking to balance budgets by replacing RNs with less-skilled workers, leaving workloads unmanageable for nurses and dangerous for patients. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says there is a dire need for more RNs to meet the increased care needs of the complex, unstable patients in Ontario hospitals.

January 15: 
ONA has asked the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs to call on the provincial government to hire more RNs (Oakville Beaver, January 15, 2014). President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, said in a media release following the committee meeting that it’s a “shocking little secret” that Ontario has the second-lowest RN-to-population ratio, with just seven RNs per 1,000 Ontarians. Jo Anne Shannon, RN addressed the committee where ONA called for funding of a multi-year action plan to hire and maintain RN positions. Shannon told the committee of cuts that hurt patients and cited research showing the direct link between RN staffing levels and improved health outcomes for patients.

January 14: 
ONA has called on the provincial government to fund a minimum staffing standard in long-term care to keep residents safer and healthier in long-term care facilities (Nurse Newsline, January 14, 2014). In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs, Bev Mathers, ONA’s Labour Relations Manager, cited research that shows the direct link between nurse staffing levels and resident safety and health outcomes. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that it’s a “shocking little secret” that Ontario has the second-lowest RN to population ratio in the country, with just seven RNs per 1,000 Ontarians. She notes that in Ontario, a long-term care RN can find herself responsible for coordinating care plans for up to 300 residents. “It’s an unsafe and untenable situation and our frail, elderly residents deserve far better.”

January 14: 
The Ontario Nurses’ Association is calling on the provincial government to hire more RNs (CFTR AM, January 14, 2014). ONA’s Vicki McKenna says that when compared to the rest of the country, Ontario has a very low RN-to-population ratio. “We are the second-lowest ratio of registered nurse to population in the country,” she said. ONA says that RN understaffing has led to significant challenges in delivering safe, quality patient care. They’re trying to get their message to the Liberal government through pre-budget presentations.

January 13: 
RCI (CBC International) has interviewed Bev Mathers, ONA’s Labour Relations Manager, following her presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs (January 13, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association is calling for a minimum staffing standard for provincial long-term care facilities. ONA says that whether there are 60 patients or 300, the current standard is one registered nurse, despite the rapidly rising severity of the needs of residents. A study has shown that Ontario’s staffing levels are among the lowest in the industrialized world.

January 13: 
CBC News has obtained a copy of a memo to the Ontario Nurses’ Association from hospital administration that shows the Thunder Bay Health Sciences Centre is cutting nursing staff in its ER (January 13, 2014). The memo says that due to “budgetary constraints,” the equivalent of 5.5 full-time nursing positions are being cut from the ER. ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says she doubts the hospital’s assertion that patient care won’t be affected. “The reality is they will have fewer nurses in the ER…and I’m concerned about how they will manage the patients, the volume of people that they’re seeing.” The hospital says that four of the positions are being transferred to a special nursing team that works on all floors of the hospital and the remaining 1.5 jobs were funded on a temporary basis by the province under its pay-for-results program. McKenna urges the people of Thunder Bay to pay close attention to what’s happening in their local hospital, because it does “affect health care for you and your family.”

January 7: 
RNs have identified continuing professional practice and workload concerns affecting patient care at Rouge Valley Health System’s post-acute care unit (Nurses Newsline, January 7, 2014). ONA members have now taken the step of calling in an IAC to look at RN staffing levels and make recommendations. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud noted that RNs have a professional obligation to notify the hospital when they cannot provide safe patient care. Nurses say the hospital has replaced half the RN and RPN positions in the unit with unregulated care providers, leaving the nurse-to-patient ratios unsafe, unmanageable and dangerous for patients.

January 7:
The Ontario Nurses’ Association is assessing RN staffing levels at Rouge Valley Health System (SKDO AM, January 7, 2014). ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says there’s been some skill mix changes, a decrease of RPNs and RNs, and an increase in PSWs. She notes that “we need everybody in the health care system working, but we’re not easily substituted one for the other.” RNs are concerned about workloads and patient care and are asking the province to step in. A recent change has lowered the number of RNs while increasing the number of unregulated health care providers. The hearing will run until Thursday.

January 7:
A hearing is taking place this week at the Rouge Valley Health System to determine whether the hospital has reduced the number of RNs in a unit at the Centenary campus to an unsafe level (Scarborough Mirror, January 7, 2014). The Independent Assessment Committee is looking at conditions in the post-acute care unit after the Ontario Nurses’ Association requested the hearing, noting that it had tried but failed to resolve staffing concerns with the hospital. ONA says the patients have complex medical needs and that half the RNs and RPNs in the unit have been replaced by personal support workers. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that because the PSWs aren’t qualified to perform some tasks, such as changing dressings, the remaining nurses are finding it challenging to perform their duties because they’re “being pulled in so many directions.”

December 11: 
ONA members braved freezing temperatures in Thunder Bay to show their support, joining striking SEIU personal support workers on the picket line (tbnewswatch.com, December 11, 2013.) The striking workers, who have been without a contract since April, are demanding better working conditions and “a living wage” says local employee representative Bill Jobin. About 4,500 workers employed by Red Cross Care Partners across Ontario went on strike Wednesday.

December 10: 
The Ontario Nurses’ Association has launched a new ad campaign to call for an end to the stigmatization of nurses who choose not to have a flu vaccine (Canadian Healthcare Network, December 10, 2013). ONA is also calling for the provincial government to work collaboratively to develop a province-wide, comprehensive and truly effective policy to fight the spread of influenza. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says a number of Ontario hospitals are trying to coerce nurses into having a flu vaccine or be publicly stigmatized if they choose not to have the shot. The ads note that it “takes more than a shot in the arm” to prevent the flu. ONA believes that if hospitals are serious about slowing the spread of flu, they must use evidence-based infection-control measures and implement a range of other measures.

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