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 17: Existing safety protocols for workers caring for Ebola patients is under scrutiny as health officials in the U.S. try to figure out how two nurses contracted the virus (Edmonton Journal, October 17, 2014). Among other issues is whether the nurses in Dallas had proper protective equipment when they cared for an Ebola patient. The World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders have developed relatively safe ways of caring for people. In Ottawa, ONA Local 83 president Frances Smith said the message she consistently received from nurses in her hospital who cared for a potential Ebola patient was “they didn’t feel that they were ready for this at all.”

October 16: Victoria Hospital’s growing psychiatric ward “put patients at risk” – until nurses persuaded officials to keep hiring more staff (St. Thomas-Times Journal, October 16, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association reported to members in its newsletter that “Nurses are filling out professional responsibility workload forms due to inadequate staffing and the ramifications for the safety of the staff and the patients on that unit.” ONA Local 100’s president said London Health Sciences Centre has been working to add enough staff to create an optimal environment for nurses and patients.

October 17: The Ottawa Citizen (October 17, 2014) reports that ONA Local 83 president Frances Smith says nurses’ experiences caring for a potential Ebola patient were frightening. Nurses were given protective equipment that left their necks and wrists exposed to infection. “We are nurses,” she said. “We look after patients in all kinds of circumstances that can be a little frightening. As long as we have appropriate protective equipment, we are able to do a lot of things. But if you don’t give us that, it makes it difficult to feel safe at work.” The Ottawa Hospital has listened to Smith’s concerns; while it started training sessions in August on how to don and doff protective equipment, it will hold further training and question-and-answer sessions. The Ottawa Hospital and CHEO have been designated by the Hospital Emergency Preparedness Committee to handle any area Ebola patients.

October 17: Some of the Ottawa and Vancouver nurses who cared for suspected Ebola patients over the Thanksgiving weekend described the experience as a “nightmare” because of a lack of training and inadequate education (Windsor Star, October 17, 2014.) Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 83 president Frances Smith said nurses were given protective equipment that left their necks and wrists exposed. Smith says the experience is a “wakeup call to everybody to look at what our processes are like and what the real concerns are for front-line staff.” Smith has shared the nurses’ concerns with hospital management and said the response has been positive.

October 15: The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions says that Ontario is not ready to “do battle with Ebola” and used information from the Ontario Nurses’ Association that showed gaps in safety to make their point (CHML AM, October 15, 2014.) Nurses and other workers say they’ve not been given adequate training to protect themselves.

October 15: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that in the front of every nurse’s mind is whether they are fully prepared to care for Ebola patients should that situation arise in Ontario (CBC Radio 1 London, October 15, 2014). She believes that we cannot assume anything when it comes to Ebola patients because it’s a new situation for North America – instead, we must err on the side of caution as Justice Archie Campbell recommended in his post-SARS report. She says the jury is still out on whether Ebola is transmissible through aerosolized droplets, and there is a need to equip nurses with powered air purifier respirators in some cases. Ebola does not spread through the air, but body fluids can become aerosolized when nurses are treating patients.

October 15: CBC Radio 1 (October 15, 2014) reports that Ottawa Hospital had a scare with a potential Ebola patient. Meanwhile, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province is not fully ready for Ebola yet. ONA is working with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour to ensure nurses are kept safe. Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is also in close contact with the American nurses’ union, National Nurses, and has been discussing the issues they face in Dallas. Ontario is seeing some gaps here in safety and a lack of safety equipment for nurses. Nurses that would be in close proximity to patients will need proper equipment to protect them from body fluids that become aerosolized. Haslam-Stroud also noted that under the Occupational Health & Safety Act, “there is very limited grounds” for nurses to decline to care for an Ebola patient. On the other hand, she says that “nurses deal with infectious patients daily and do expect that the government and their employers will ensure nurses have a safe working environment.”

October 14: CBC News reports that the patient in an Ottawa hospital does not have Ebola virus (October 14, 2014.) A second suspected case remains in a Belleville hospital awaiting test results. Meanwhile, the head of the Ontario Nurses’ Association says that there remains some debate about whether the virus can travel through the air. Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “aerosol transmission has not been ruled out and this is the fundamental disagreement that we’re having right now with the government, and we’re working with the government to try to resolve it.”

October 15: The Globe and Mail (October 15, 2014) reports that a national nurses’ union is warning that their workers do not have enough training or equipment to safely treat Ebola patients. Linda Silas, head of the CFNU, wrote to Canada’s chief public health officer to highlight five instances in which unnamed Ontario hospitals “failed the Ebola readiness test.” Preparation has taken on a new urgency, says the report, since a Dallas nurse contracted the virus while caring for a patient. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she does not want to highlight “any area of the province that’s going to put fear in our patients. We are working with those employers, the government and our joint health and safety committees to ensure that they become Ebola ready. They should be now, but they’re not fully Ebola ready as we speak.” Silas says that it’s a good thing that the Public Health Agency of Canada is reacting quickly; there will be a meeting with nurses and other healthcare workers to ensure everyone is on the same page.

October 15: The London Free Press (October 15, 2014) reports that London nurses have forged an agreement that allows them to use respirators. James Murray, president of Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 100, says that, “Any nurse [here] has the right to choose their personal protective equipment.” He represents ONA members working for London Health Sciences Centre. Meanwhile, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud has questioned public health officials in Toronto, asking why they backtracked from an assessment that Ebola might be spread through the air. On the union’s website is a statement that reads, “We are not confident that the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario, Ministry of Labour nor the Provincial Infectious Disease Advisory Committee are adequately holding health-care employers accountable to take every reasonable precaution to protect our members from this hazard.”

October 14: Linda Haslam-Stroud, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says that she fears the province is not ready to handle a real case of Ebola virus (Ottawa Citizen, October 14, 2014.) ONA is particularly concerned that nurses lack sufficient safety equipment to prevent them from contracting the virus, as a nurse in Dallas did last week. Haslam-Stroud urges that health facilities “err on the side of safety” when preparing for Ebola. The head of the CFNU, Linda Silas, says the nurse in Texas who contracted Ebola “really rang the alarm bells for us. This is very close to home.” She says that she has heard of equipment problems at hospitals with suspected cases. The CFNU subsequently contacted the Public Health Agency of Canada with its concerns. ONA is calling for drills to take place so that health care workers are assured the equipment works and they understand the protocols. While Ontario is in better shape than it was during the SARS outbreak, we’re still not fully prepared.

October 14: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that she doesn’t believe the Ontario health care system is “fully ready yet” to handle a case of Ebola virus (CBC Radio 1 Ottawa Morning, October 14, 2014). There is still some work to be done, but “we are working with both the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health, and we’re looking forward to ensuring that our nurses are kept safe.” Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is in close liaison with the American nurses’ union, which is saying that they’ve not been adequately trained or equipped to protect themselves, their patients and their families. Nurses are on the front lines, says Haslam-Stroud, and the false alarms of Ebola cases in Ontario have demonstrated where the gaps exist in preparedness. There is still some debate about whether Ebola can be aerosolized and some experts are calling for powered air purifyer respirators.

October 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud told CBC News at Six Ottawa (October 13, 2014) that Canada needs to be able to say that we have the appropriate protective equipment and appropriate training to handle a case of Ebola. Ontario nurses are pushing for better training and equipment, but as yet, the province is not quite there, and the stakes are high. Nurses are looking for an upgraded version of a respiratory mask to protect them. Over the weekend, there were possible cases of Ebola in hospitals in Ottawa and Belleville.

October 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that there is no consensus on whether or not Ebola can spread through the air, saying that someone could inhale tiny airborne particles if exposed to them long enough in an exposed space (CBC.CA News, October 13, 2014.) Haslam-Stroud says her organization is working with the government right now to resolve the possibility of aerosol transmission. “Ebola has a lot of unknowns to it,” she says. Meanwhile, officials say that test results for a patient in isolation in Ottawa for possible Ebola have come back negative; a man in Belleville remains in hospital awaiting results of blood tests.

October 7: Dr. Samir Gupta reports that hospitals in Ontario who are forcing health-care workers to get a flu vaccine or wear a mask have seen – in some facilities – vaccination rates going from 55 per cent to above 70 per cent (Global News, October 7, 2014). There has, however, been much controversy – the RNAO supports the policy, but the Ontario Nurses’ Association opposes it and has filed grievances. Gupta says that health-care workers are the “ones with the training and expertise to care for flu victims, so they have an obligation to minimize their chances of being infected so they’re available to take care of patients if there’s a severe outbreak. He argues that there is data that shows that patient vaccination reduces hospitalizations from flu and death from flu. The trickier argument is whether mandatory flu shots represent an infringement on people’s basic human rights. The question, he says, is “really one for the public.” His personal opinion, Gupta says, is that being a health care worker is a “privilege and not a right, and for me, I can accept the loss of certain autonomy that comes with that privilege.”

October 3: Registered nurses at St. Joseph’s Health Care – London have voted 87 per cent in favour of joining the Ontario Nurses’ Association (Queen’s Park Briefing, October 3, 2014). The bargaining unit votes stemmed from a Ministry of Health decision to integrate mental health services and open a new centre in November 2015. The labour board ruled that the move was a health service integration and ordered a vote of the various bargaining units before the new centre opened.

October 2: As the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital’s CEO, Linda Bisonette, prepares to leave the position, she presided over her final service recognition awards ceremony (Perth EMC, October 2, 2014). ONA Local representative Mary Lou White spoke for her fellow nurses on the “duality that is their life.” She said that nurses can multi-task in a busy environment, “but you screw up the recipe for Rice Krispy squares.” On one hand, a nurse may need a doctor’s note to administer Tylenol, but can operate heart equipment on their own. “Further to this, you spend all day on your feet, but your personal physician tells you [that] you need to get more exercise.” Nurses are adept at figuring things out on the fly, things that are not taught at school, such as deciphering doctor’s handwriting that “resembles graffiti on a dumpster.” She adds that patients often become extended family to the nurses, and that in addition to nurses’ intelligence and training, they believe that nothing can replace their human touch.

September 30: Contract talks have ended for the province’s for-profit nursing home owners and the Ontario Nurses’ Association’s 3,000 RNs and allied health professionals (CKNX AM, CHOK FM, September 30, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the employers are demanding the reduction of RN staff. The two sides are going to arbitration.

September 30: CFPL AM London (September 30, 2014) devoted its morning talk show to the issue of mandatory flu vaccines for health care workers. The hosts discussed the trend of Ontario hospitals making flu vaccinations mandatory for staff, or forcing unvaccinated staff to wear masks. It noted that last December, the Ontario Nurses’ Association objected to a plan by local hospitals to institute the policy. ONA ran ads against the policy and grieved it. The radio station noted that the “pro-flu shot crowd” sometimes overstates the effectiveness of the vaccine; the hosts say people should not be “tricked” into getting the vaccine with inaccurate information.

September 29: The Canadian Healthcare Network (September 29, 2014) reports that ONA has launched radio ads in cities and towns across the province to raise awareness of the value and role of RNs and allied health professionals working as Community Care Access Centre Care Coordinators. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the Care Coordinators “are on our side.” The RNs and allied health professionals “are there to assess their patients, develop personal care plans and arrange for vital health services for those who need them.” She adds that their work is enormously valuable to a health care system with tight budgets. “Safe care at home is the best we can aim for, and care coordinators make it possible.”

September 29: Mediation has ended for 3,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals working in Ontario for-profit nursing homes because the employer has demanded concessions to allow for the gutting of RN care (Canadian Healthcare Network, September 29, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “shareholder profit is clearly top of mind for nursing home owners, as they will not return to the table without an agreement to allow them to cut RN staff unchecked.” She adds that frail and elderly residents, who increasingly suffer from multiple chronic health conditions, deserve better. Haslam-Stroud says the for-profit owners are unwilling to provide appropriate RN staffing despite reams of evidence showing that more RNs mean safer, healthier long-term care residents. The two sides head to arbitration on October 22 and 23.

October 1: ONA has started to air radio ads in 11 Ontario cities to ensure that Ontarians take full advantage of the services provided by CCAC Care Coordinators (Marketing Magazine, October 1, 2014.) The goal is to raise awareness of the role of CCAC Care Coordinators, who help patients receive care at home. ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna said that, “if people are going home, we need to be sure they have the right resources and that they have high-quality care, or else they end up right back at the hospital.” ONA is also waging a political battle against those who see CCACs as providing insufficient benefits to the health care system. McKenna says they just don’t understand the role of CCACs. She says that the care coordinators are front-line care providers already handling a multitude of patients yearly.

September 30: 
A year after London hospitals required nurses and doctors to get a flu shot or wear a mask, other major hospitals are following suit (London Free Press, September 30, 2014). Sunnybrook and North York General hospitals have followed London’s example and are part of a growing group of hospitals to adopt the practice. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says the flu shot or mask rule stigmatizes nurses and the union filed grievances against hospitals; they also paid for advertisements targeting them. The RNAO supports the flu shot or mask rule.

September 29: Contract talks between 3,000 ONA registered nurses and 168 for-profit nursing home owners are going to arbitration (CFPL AM, CKPC-FM,CHML AM, CJOY AM, September 29, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that negotiations ended after employers demanded the option to cut registered nursing staff.

September 29: Stalled contract talks between RNs and for-profit nursing homes have the two sides heading to arbitration (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 29, 2014). The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that “shareholder profit is clearly top of mind for nursing home owners as they will not return to the table without an agreement to allow them to cut RN staff unchecked.” ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, “our frail and elderly patients deserve better.”

September 29: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is launching a radio ad campaign to defend the Community Care Access Centre system (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 29, 2014). Critics say the system is a health-care bureaucracy that must be streamlined, but the ads aim to persuade the public that CCAC care workers – many of them nurses – help boost the quality of home care at a time when budgets are tight. Haslam-Stroud says, “These dedicated registered nurses are there to assess their patients, develop personal care plans and arrange for vital health services for those who need them.” The two radio ads describe in-home scenarios where CCAC care coordinators are needed. Haslam-Stroud says the care coordinators save money and ensure that patients are supported.

September 29: Contract talks between 3,000 registered nurses and health professionals at 168 nursing homes in Ontario are heading to arbitration (Canadian Press, September 29, 2014). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that negotiations have ended over what she calls the employers’ demand to reduce staffing. Haslam-Stroud says that for-profit homes owners won’t return to the negotiating table without an agreement that allows them to cut RN staff. Arbitration will be held October 22 and 24.

September 12:
The Ontario Nurses’ Association has named Marie Kelly as its interim CEO and Chief Administrative Officer, effective October 1 (Queen’s Park Briefing, September 12, 2014). Kelly succeeds Michael Balagus, who has been named the chief of staff to Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that, “Marie is a seasoned labour lawyer and ONA director who understands how our organization works and the priorities of our registered nurses and allied health professionals.”

September 19:
The Brampton Guardian (September 19, 2014) has profiled Allison Brown. Brown is an RN who is running for city councilor; she says she worked with the Ontario Nurses’ Association at the provincial and local levels and has years of experience. Brown says she lives to help and serve others.

September 9:
Endoscopy units at Humber River Hospital face criticism after an Independent Assessment Committee (IAC) of nursing experts produced a lengthy report with 32 recommendations to improve patient care and nurse safety (Canadian OH&S News, September 9, 2014.) ONA members at the hospital had voiced concerns about problems within the two units including understaffing and an incorrect mix of staff skills. When registered nurses’ attempts to express their concerns to management failed, they “took advantage” of the professional responsibility clause in their contracts to push for the IAC to investigate the situation and generate solutions.

September 6: Staff from ONA’s Timmins office and members appeared front and centre marching in the region’s first ever Pride Parade (Timmins Daily Press, September 6, 2014.)

September 4/5: A number of on-site parking-lot closures are forcing nurses working at the Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus to park their cars off site (CBC News at Six Ottawa/Ottawa Morning, September 4/5, 2014.) Several of the hospital’s parking lots have been closed as a result of ongoing construction projects; off-site lots at Dow’s Lake, Champlain and the Experimental Farm are being used at alternatives for commuters who must then take a shuttle to the hospital. ONA Bargaining Unit President Frances Smith warns that this is a “huge issue,” especially for veteran nurses, and those coming off long shifts and/or working odd hours. “We come out of work, and we've missed the shuttle. So here you are waiting until the next shuttle. You're so tired and so fed up by that point. All you want to do is go home.”

September 4: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is concerned about the impact of major changes coming to St. Joseph’s Hospital (CHML Radio Hamilton, AM 900, September 4, 2014). The hospital says it is preparing to “swap” 44 RN positions with RPN positions. The two categories of nurse are qualified to provide different levels of care. The hospital is cutting a total of 58 RN positions, almost all of them full-time. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that patient care will be compromised.

September 4: Planning for the debut of Pridefest in Sault Ste. Marie is in “hyperdrive” (Sault Star, September 4, 2014). Theodore Syrette, the event’s organizer, says he is nailing down the final details of many of the events that will be held this weekend. Among the sponsors of the first Pride weekend are local unions, including the Ontario Nurses’ Association, OPSEU, CUPE and one individual donor. The event will include a flag-raising and opening ceremony, a rainbow information expo, an adults-only dance party, film festival, comedy night and Pride walk.

September 4: St. Joseph’s Healthcare is preparing to “swap 44 registered nurse (RN) positions for RPNs, and Ontario’s nursing union says it is “absolutely devastated” (Hamilton Spectator, September 4, 2014). The hospital is cutting 58 RN positions, 52 of which are full time. The majority of the cuts are in the surgery and medical units, and Ontario Nurses’ Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud worries that patient care will be compromised. The cuts are about balancing budgets on the “backs of our…RNs and our patients,” she says. The hospital is looking to cut about $10 million by March 31. Chief nursing executive Winnie Doyle says that the RPNs who are replacing the RNs are capable of providing safe care “in cases where patients have what we call predictable outcomes, where your treatment goes according to how we’d think it would go.” But Haslam-Stroud says that these days, you’d be hard pressed to find a post-op patient in hospital with a “predictable outcome.” She points out that now, the only post-op patients who stay overnight in hospital are “more acute and more unstable and less predictable.” While Haslam-Stroud says that there is “absolutely a place for RPNs in the system…certainly it is not fair to them to have their registration put at risk” by having RPNs care for patients who are not stable.

September 3: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN took the ALS ice bucket challenge in front of the Charlton campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton yesterday (Canadian HealthcareNetwork.ca, September 3, 2014). The location was chosen to raise awareness of nursing cuts. The hospital has issued notices of layoff to 58 RNs; 52 of the positions are full-time. Haslam-Stroud, herself a St. Joe’s RN, says the cuts are due to a budget deficit and will hurt patients the most. She says that St. Joe’s is just the latest in a long line of hospitals cutting RNs. Video of the President taking the challenge is on ONA’s YouTube channel; Haslam-Stroud has made a person donation to the ALS Society of Canada and challenged executives of the hospital to take the challenge, as well as Donna Bain, RN, the Bargaining Unit President at the hospital.

August 27: 
An independent assessment committee report has called for two new full-time RNs to be hired at each of Humber River Hospital’s two endoscopy clinics (Queen’s Park Briefing, August 27, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that “clearly, the recommendations show the need for many improvements to the endoscopy units at Humber River Hospital. The hospital also needs a dedicated aide role for the units so that RNs are no longer expected to clean rooms, stretchers and equipment between patients…” The committee made 32 recommendations to ensure patients receive proper care at the Toronto hospital.

August 14:
Healthy Debate (August 14, 2014) has written a lengthy piece about the issue of hospital parking fees. The piece quotes ONA First Vice-President, Vicki McKenna, who says that hospital parking fees are essentially user fees. McKenna says that these fees can make people think twice about scheduling appointments, noting that some must wait for pension cheques to arrive before they can visit their physician. “Some people will ration their health care, really,” because of the fees, she says. “It’s unmanageable for many people, particularly those on fixed incomes.”

August 5: 
A “tiny” Southwestern Ontario hospital has persuaded its staff to have a flu shot – by asking them to (London Free Press, August 5, 2014.) The South Huron Hospital Association employs 110 people, and persuaded 85 per cent of them to have the flu vaccine. Meanwhile, big Ontario hospitals are fighting with the Ontario Nurses’ Association over their requirement for nurses to have a flu shot or wear a mask. ONA filed grievances against hospitals that required the shot; South Huron interim CEO Heather Klopp said the culture created at the hospital’s two locations helped make the push for vaccinations succeed.

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