Sat Feb 13

ONA in the News

The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is frequently a health industry source and/or quoted in newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations across the province and nationally. Read the latest articles in which ONA is featured:

January 27: A letter to the editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal (January 27, 2016) from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that ONA's goal in decrying the severe RN shortage at Hogarth Riverview Manor is to improve care for vulnerable residents. ONA is not debating the merits of RNs and RPNs, but rather fighting for the employer to adhere to strict regulations put in place by the Ministry of Health for safety reasons. ONA strongly believes that every RN and RPN has "a vital place in health care." The regulations in the Long-Term Care Act, 2007 are clear, and state that an RN must be present in the long-term care home at all times. Ministry inspectors have cited Hogarth Riverview Manor twice in 2015 for failing to comply with regulations, and have again sent in an inspector. Haslam-Stroud writes that the bottom line is that every nurse, no matter their designation, wants the same thing for patients: safe, quality care our vulnerable seniors deserve.

January 27: The Ontario Nurses' Association and Harrow Health Centre have reached a tentative deal (CKLW AM, January 27, 2016). The five NPs and three RPNs help provide primary health care to Harrow and McGregor.

January 29: Ontario Nurses' Association Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that while money has been taken out of Ontario's hospital budgets for the past four years, reinvestment in community care has been significantly less (Sarnia Observer, January 29, 2016). "It's like the cart is way out and the horse is still having breakfast," said McKenna. "We all understand how things have to be built over time, but in the meantime, you don't just stop doing something that provides a service to people, particularly when it comes to health care." McKenna's comments come after the announcement of another round of staffing cuts at Bluewater Health, including registered nurses. The cuts, says McKenna, will impact patient care. "For every additional patient added to an average nurse's workload, it increases the complication rate, the morbidity and mortality rate, by seven per cent," she said. "This is about people's health and this is about people's lives. This situation has to stop." McKenna urges people to start calling their MPP and officials at the LHIN to complain about the ongoing cuts.

January 27: ONA members providing care at Harrow Health Centre have avoided a strike (CBC News, January 27, 2016). The five Nurse Practitioners and three Registered Practical Nurses have reached a tentative first collective agreement with management. Nurses would have been in a strike position if a deal had not been reached. ONA is recommending ratification.

January 25: New Ontario Federation of Labour president Chris Buckley has "extended an olive branch" to three union leaders, including the Ontario Nurses' Association (Queen's Park Briefing, January 25, 2016). Buckley says the days of differences between past OFL leadership and affiliates are "behind us." Buckley has asked ONA, OPSEU and SEIU to return to the fold, promising a "less-combative approach." Buckley's period of time at the OFL has been spent mending fences with the unions and establishing a more reasonable tone with the government.

January 27: While Northumberland Hills Hospital says it is cutting 13.17 full-time equivalent RN positions, the Ontario Nurses' Association says that number is actually 28 of its RNs (Peterborough Examiner, January 27, 2016). ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says 17 full-time RN positions will be impacted, affecting 28 RNs. The impact of the RN cuts, says McKenna, includes heavier workloads for nurses, increasing the risk of patients suffering complications and even death.

January 26: ONA members providing patient care at Harrow Health Centre may be forced to strike as they continue to seek a first collective agreement (Nurses' Newsline, January 26, 2016). Five NPs and three RPNs provide a wide array of nursing care for their patients. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, says the nurses are providing an invaluable service, and nurses know patients will suffer should they be forced to strike. The president says she "remains optimistic that this employer will return to the negotiating table...and reasonably negotiate with our dedicated and highly skilled members."

January 26: Among the 1,000 protestors in North Bay in December were CFNU President Linda Silas and ONA Local Coordinator Debbie McCrank (North Bay Nugget, January 26, 2016). The protestors gathered in an effort to convince the government to free up more money for hospitals in Northern Ontario, particularly the North Bay Regional Health Centre. Silas says that North Bay is looking at 100 layoffs per year if the province does not end a freeze on health-care spending. McCrank said the cuts to RNs and services would impact all of the North, noting that the North Bay Regional Health Centre is a major treatment centre, but the province's cuts are putting that designation at risk, and putting extra pressure on all Northern hospitals. "It comes down to cheaper care versus quality care," she said. "The province is driven by the budget, not by the concern for quality health care."

January 26: The Ontario Nurses' Association, one of three unions affected by a new hospital plan at Northumberland Hills Hospital, says that 28 of their registered nurses will be impacted by cuts (NorthumberlandToday.com, January 26, 2016). The hospital says the cuts will total 13.17 full-time-equivalent RNs. However, ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that 17 full-time RNs will be cut as well as another eight RNs who are in job-share positions, and three part-time RNs. McKenna says that when you realize that a full-time RN works almost 2,000 hours annually, "that's a pretty big loss of RN care for patients and their families." Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra says that hospital funding is being cut for a ninth straight year at hospitals in Ontario. The hospital is also going to search for a further savings of several million dollars through "integration efficiencies" with other organizations. Despite hospital CEO Linda Davis's statement that patient care will be the same, McKenna says "that doesn't make sense. It isn't logical." She says that while the plan may look good on paper, the logistics of assigning staff to patients doesn't take into account the required bedside care while opening and closing ward doors, working around walls, and other issues on the units. Research shows that with fewer nurses caring for more patients, workloads rise and so do patient complications and death rates -- by 7 per cent for every extra patient added to an RN's workload. McKenna says that decisions are being driven solely by dollars and managers are looking at just front-end costs, not the back-end costs, or when the emergency department becomes a "revolving door."

January 24: ONA's claim of a "severe" lack of RNs at Hogarth Riverview Manor has created "local fallout" (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, January 24, 2016). Unifor Local 229 president Kari Jefford says that ONA's accusations have "caused significant fear and anxiety to those residents and families who have moved into the new facility..." and adds that ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud's statements are "unjust and not accurate." ONA says there have been multiple occasions when there have been no RNs on site. Jefford says there is no legislated minimum hours of hands-on nursing care for residents in long-term care. She adds that the "only point on which I can agree with Haslam-Stroud is residents in long-term care deserve dignity and respect and that there is a shortage of nursing staffing levels in all areas."

January 22: St. Joseph's Healthcare "is done with the personal alarm systems at its West 5th campus" (Hamilton Spectator, January 22, 2016). There was another assault against its nursing staff Wednesday evening as at least seven personal alarms of nursing staff failed to trigger a code white (a call for immediate help). Two RPNs and an RN sustained injuries, and all had tested the battery life of their alarms before the start of their shift, said VP of Quality, Strategic Planning, Mental Health and Addiction Programs at St. Joe's, Romeo Cercone. A separate alarm failed to indicate the patient had left their bed Wednesday evening. Now, the hospital is asking the alarm company to remove the system and replace it with "something that works." ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is pleased with the hospital's quick response. The hospital has apologized for the toll "the long-standing problem" took on staff and clients.

January 22: Northumberland Hills Hospital is cutting staff in a hospital restructuring plan (NorthumberlandToday.com, January 22, 2016). The 92-bed hospital, which was built a decade ago to accommodate 137 beds, will consolidate two units -- medical and surgical -- into a 36-bed unit, and merge palliative and restorative care units into a 24-bed unit "to reduce the overall staffing," says CEO Linda Davis. The hospital will be meeting with ONA as well as CUPE and OPSEU in the coming weeks.

January 20: St. Joseph's Care Group is "facing more pressure" regarding staffing levels at its new Hogarth Riverview Manor long-term care facility (CKPR TV, January 20, 2016). The Ontario Nurses' Association says there is a severe lack of RNs at the new facility, and it has filed a grievance with the employer. ONA says the ratio of residents to RNs is far too low, and there have been a number of occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. Labour Relations Officer Michele Martin says "our concern is for the safety of residents...this is their home and they're here because they need some assistance. And we want to make sure that the right provider and enough providers are there to care." Two weeks ago, members of Unifor and the local Health Coalition rallied over similar concerns.

January 21: St. Joseph's Care Group disputes a claim by ONA that a lack of RNs at its Hogarth Riverview Manor is putting residents at risk (Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, January 21, 2016). CEO Tracy Buckler says the organization "complies with all legislation with respect to the operation of our long-term care homes." However, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the organization's failure to plan and staff for the expansion of the facility has resulted in a lack of RNs, risking the care and safety of its vulnerable residents and violating legislated RN staffing levels. "This is an unsafe, unacceptable situation for our residents," she said. The facility had months to plan and ensure a full complement of staff to ensure residents transitioned safely into their new home, but, says Haslam-Stroud, "there are more residents but fewer RNs and just one registered nurse responsible for the entire facility overnight." Furthermore, she says there have been multiple occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. ONA is calling on the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to take immediate steps to force this facility to comply with standards.

January 20: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that "we are experiencing cuts to registered nurses across the province" (The Cord, January 20, 2016). "Hospitals are telling us that it's simply based on the budget." The latest round of cuts happened at Grand River Hospital, where 38 staff have received lay-off notices and 30 vacant positions will be unfilled. As McKenna notes, "The research is clear that registered nurses at the bedside with patients improve outcomes. They stay shorter lengths of stay at hospital and have fewer complications. As an Ontarian and certainly as a practicing nurse, that's not acceptable." She believes the government must fund hospitals appropriately and should account for increases to costs that are often out of the hospital's control, such as utility costs and drug prices. "It's not a good situation for nurses in Ontario at all, nor for patients."

January 21: The Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health has ratified new contracts with two of the health unit's unions (Trenton Trentonian, January 21, 2016). The medical officer of health and the board say they are proud to have a new deal with members of the Ontario Nurses' Association. The chair of the board said "the staff acted responsibly. The increases they took were modest, but I think reflective of the reality that we need to be competitive in today's market."

January 20: The Ontario Nurses' Association is criticizing what it says is a severe lack of registered nurses at the new Hogarth Riverview Manor seniors home (tbnewswatch.com, January 20, 2016). ONA has filed a grievance with St. Joseph's Care Group, saying the ratio of residents to registered nurses is far too low. ONA officials claim that since residents began moving into the facility, there have been a number of occasions when there were no RNs on site at all. St. Joe's say that the large new building is an opportunity to try different staffing models and that they are confident in their ability to provide proper care to residents.

January 19: Nurses' Newsline (January 19, 2016)  reports that a nurse had hot coffee thrown in her face during another assault at St. Joseph's Healthcare. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the RPN was assaulted by a patient in the medium-security forensics unit. When the nurse pressed her personal alarm button, it failed.

January 18: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the number of RN jobs being cut at Windsor Regional Hospital is a lot higher than the 80 positions announced earlier (CKLW AM Windsor, January 18, 2016). McKenna says the number is "just devastating" to the nurses and to the community. McKenna explains that some of the RN positions will be instead filled by RPNs and many not filled at all. The RNs have been there because people who are in hospital need to be cared for by highly skilled nurses. "Let's be clear: we need RPNs, we need RNs, we need everybody in the health care system working," says McKenna. "But what the issue at hand here is that where a patient's...condition is not predictable" they need an RN caring for them. Research shows clearly that when a patient's care needs are unpredictable, they need an RN at the bedside. Patients do better because of RNs' observation skills and their training. McKenna says the difficulty lies at what the impact of RN cuts will be on the patients. RN workloads will increase, and again, the research shows that this will increase the risk of patients suffering complications and even death by seven per cent.

January 18: The Ontario Nurses' Association says that the total number of RN positions being cut by Windsor Regional Hospital is 169, not the number provided by the hospital (CBC Windsor, January 18, 2016). ONA has now received formal layoff notices for the RNs and says the cuts will impact most areas of the hospital by way of direct layoffs, not filling vacant positions, reducing hours, replacing RNs with RPNs and closing some full programs. University of Toronto Nursing Professor Anne Tourangeau has done two large studies that looked at nurse staffing in Ontario hospitals. She says that despite examining many factors, including physician qualifications, it is consistently the RN staff mix that comes up as being the predictor of patient mortality. She believes that the quality of care will be impacted.

January 15: ONA is sounding the alarm about RN layoffs, and warns that patients will pay the price (hrreporter.com, January 15, 2016). ONA says 770 RN positions were cut last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced RN cuts this month. Windsor Regional Hospital cut about 120 RN positions this week, but says it plans to hire 80 RPNs. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the hospitals decide to "risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget."

January 15: ONA says that patients will be the big losers after recent RN cuts at Ontario hospitals (CJQM Sault Ste. Marie, CHML AM Hamilton, CBC Radio 1 Windsor, CKGL AM Kitchener-Waterloo, CHAS FM Sault Ste. Marie, CFPL FM London, CHOK-AM Sarnia, CKTB AM St. Catharines, January 15, 2016). The nurses' union says 770 RNs were cut in 2015 and more RN cuts have already been announced this year. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that cash-strapped hospitals have decided to risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget.

January 14: The Lynne Martin Show (CKLW AM Windsor, January 14, 2016) featured debate about whether listeners believe RN cuts will lead to health care suffering. ONA believes that patients are at risk because of RN cuts. The Liberals, Martin reports, insist that isn't going to happen.

January 14: The union representing 60,000 RNs say patients will be the big losers after RN layoffs at cash-strapped hospitals (CFPL AM, January 14, 2016). ONA is sounding the alarm and says 770 RN positions were cut last year. Hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced RN cuts this month. Health Minister Eric Hoskins praised the work of nurses, and said that hospitals are responsible for their own staffing decisions.

January 15: Queen's Park Briefing (January 15, 2016) reports that "last year was a rough one for nurses -- and it doesn't look like 2016 is going to be any better." ONA says that 770 RNs were cut last year as hospitals tried to balance budgets. The layoffs aren't stopping this year either, with Windsor and Kitchener hospitals announcing RN cuts. Who's to blame? Canadian Press reports that most of the fingers are being pointed at the government's funding formula, which hospitals say favours faster-growing areas.

January 14: The PCs say that Ontario hospitals are in crisis because their hospital budgets have been frozen for four years, and say nurses are ending up as targets and patients are getting decreased levels of care (Canadian Press, CTV News, January 14, 2016). PC Health Critic Jeff Yurek says "when you do front-line health-care cuts the patient does suffer, care does diminish, because nursing is the backbone of the health-care system, particularly in the hospitals. When you cut back on nursing you just increase the stress levels for those who are left to fill the void." ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says hospitals have "decided to risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget." ONA says 770 RNs were cut last year and two hospitals have already announced layoffs this month. The NDP says the Liberal government's decision to freeze hospital budgets means nursing cuts that directly impact patients. They also pointed out that people can wait up to 200 days for home care services after being discharged from hospital. NDP Health Critic France Gelinas said "I would tell the government to stop the cuts to front-line care. I don't want to be alarmist, but this will put patients at risk." She also is concerned that the push to home- and community-based care means pushing patients to private companies contracted to provide services. "The money that goes to profit does not go to care, but it comes out of the same pie."

January 15: ONA is "sounding the alarm" after layoffs of RNs by cash-strapped hospitals and warns patients will pay the price (Waterloo Region Record, London Free Press, Hamilton Spectator, CP24, January 15, 2016). ONA says 770 RN positions were cut across Ontario last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced more layoffs this month. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says hospitals have decided to "risk the health outcomes of patients by cutting RNs to balance the budget." Part of the problem is a new funding formula that favours hospitals in high-growth areas such as Toronto, meaning less money for Windsor-Essex, says the CEO of Windsor Regional Hospital. ONA says that "hardly a day goes by" where it doesn't get a call from hospital nurses who say they've been told to expect layoffs. A four-year funding freeze means hospitals have less money for patient care because of inflationary pressures. ONA Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that "I absolutely believe that this is all being driven by budget cuts." Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that hospitals are responsible for their own staffing decisions. "Our expectation remains that they work closely with the LHINs to determine how best to manage their budget concerns in a way that sustains quality health care services for the future and does not impact patient care."

January 12: Arnprior Today (January 12, 2016) reports that ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud believes patients will pay the price of Windsor Regional Hospital RN cuts. Cutting RNs "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death." Haslam-Stroud encourages residents to speak out, to question their MPPs on where they stand on more RNs, and demand better, safer patient care.

January 13: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting more than 160 full-time jobs, and 80 RN positions will be replaced with lower-earning RPNs (CFCO AM, January 13, 2016). While CEO David Musyj says that a province-wide funding freeze for hospitals and a new funding formula that punishes Windsor are to blame, he also says that quality outcomes for patients will not be affected. ONA Bargaining Unit President Susan Somerdyck disagrees, noting that "studies and studies have shown that the higher trained the health-care provider at the bedside, the better outcome. So they're not going to have the same quality of care."

January 13: RN layoffs are happening across the province, including at Windsor Regional Hospital, and ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says hospitals are entering the fifth year of zero base budgeting increases (CBC Radio 1, January 13, 2016). Each year, hospitals cut RN positions to balance their budgets. In Windsor, the hospital will replace dozens RNs with lower-paid, less-educated RPNs. McKenna says that there is a place for everybody in the system, and RPNs care for patients who are "predictable, have less complex care needs." RNs are needed at the bedside of those with unpredictable outcomes. McKenna says that the in-hospital patients of today are not the same as in-hospital patients a few years ago -- most require care providers at the bedside who can assess and be with [patients] "when their situation is not predictable, and when it is complex." The government has not provided adequate funding to our hospitals, she says, and administrators need to have the courage to speak out.

January 15: ONA says that patients will pay the price for layoffs of RNs at Ontario hospitals (Broadcast News, January 15, 2016). President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the "cash-strapped" hospitals have decided to "risk the health outcomes of patients" by cutting RNs to balance hospital budgets. ONA says there were 770 RN positions cut across Ontario last year, and hospitals in Windsor and Kitchener have already announced more layoffs this month.

January 14: The Stirling Community Press (January 14, 2016) reports that ONA has ratified a new contract with the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health. Medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas says he is proud of the board's approval of a new three-year contract.

January 13: The seventh incident of violence at St. Joseph's Healthcare in just two months has occurred (CHCH TV, January 13, 2016). A nurse had hot coffee thrown at her by a patient at the psychiatric facility at the West Fifth Campus. The nurse suffered burns to the face and neck and was treated. Hospital spokesperson Romeo Cercone said, "it was something that was completely unpredictable. There was really nothing that we could do to anticipate that this was going to happen." The Ontario Nurses' Association says it is "appalled" at the number of violent attacks. ONA, in a written statement, said, "Violence should never be part of a registered nurse's job." Retired RN Lisa Yanch says that "we don't do this job as nurses or as other health-care workers because we expect it to be a walk in the park; however, you do expect a certain level of security." She says the hospital is silencing its workers and putting them at risk of serious harm.

January 13: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the province needs to step up funding for hospitals, and hospital administrators have to stop cutting jobs every time there is a budget shortfall (CBC News, January 13, 2015). Haslam-Stroud says that, "what's happening is the bean counters are basically cutting what the easiest thing to do is, cut the staff, because that's the majority of the cost." In an interview following news that Grand River Hospital is cutting 68 jobs, many of them RN positions, Haslam-Stroud said that hospitals need to be held to account because they talk about their own budgets, but not how cuts will really affect patients. She adds that there is no doubt in her mind that patient care will be affected by the cuts. "Patients' death and disease rates will increase," she said, and "the evidence is very clear that that will happen."

January 14: Another nurse has been assaulted at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton, and hospital officials say dead batteries are to blame for the nurse's personal alarm system failing (Hamilton Spectator, January 14, 2016). In this incident at the Mountain site, an RPN had "very hot coffee" thrown in her face by a patient in the medium-security forensics unit as she was redressing wounds. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that when the RPN pressed her personal alarm button, it failed. "This is not the first time that we had concerns regarding the competencies of these alarms," said Haslam-Stroud. CUPE Local 786 President Dominic DiPasquale says the RPN needed medical attention. The hospital says that every staff member is supposed to check their battery level every shift, and exchanging a battery is as easy as walking to the security office. However, Haslam-Stroud said the policy is for batteries to be checked monthly, which the battery in question was, and the union has been refused in its requests of the hospital to make the checks more frequent. "It is a faulty system and blaming it on staff error is easy," she said. "But no staff wish to have a non-working alarm." Retired St. Joe's RN Lisa Yanch says there is only one security person at the West 5th campus that has been trained in battery replacement. When the battery is dead, staff have been told to wait up to three days to have it changed, and instructed to use a whistle in the interim. She said the batteries often will indicate they are full and then fail to work the next day. Haslam-Stroud says that the problems with the alarm system are ongoing and that the Ministry of Labour visited twice - in December - and witnessed two alarms fail during testing. MOL orders were laid against the hospital. DiPasquale says, "it's now up the Ministry of Labour to say enough is enough, and we are going to fine you."

January 14: Unions representing Grand River Hospital staff say it's "not possible" that job cuts won't have an impact on patient care (Waterloo Region Record, January 14, 2016). ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that hospital CEOs facing a budget deficit just take the "easy solution" and "cut registered nurses. I believe that it is not in the best interest of patients," she said. Grand River is cutting 38 staff and eliminating 30 vacant positions to deal with a $10-million budget shortfall. Fourteen RNs are being cut as well as nine RPNs. Hospital President and CEO Malcolm Maxwell said he expects patients will not see any changes because of the cuts. McKenna says the cuts have to stop. They are a result of frozen government funding for hospitals despite the rising costs of care, and hospital administrators making decisions based on the bottom line, not what's best for patients. "We're seeing this [RN cuts] right across the province," she says, "and we have to say, stop this. Adequately fund our hospitals."

January 12: ONA says that patients will pay the price for Windsor Regional Hospital's decision to cut RN positions (National Post, January 12, 2016). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that she is "deeply disappointed but not surprised" that more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated RNs are being deleted from the hospital. Doing so, she says, "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death." Windsor Regional says that a new funding formula is punishing it for being a slow-growth community.

January 12: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting close to 90 jobs, and its CEO says that it won't impact patient care (CTV Windsor, January 12, 2016). David Musyj says the hospital had six straight balanced budgets but a new hospital funding formula has left it with a $20-million shortfall. His hospital is going to make changes to 166 positions in total, and decrease the number of RNs by 80 while increasing RPNs by 80. The Ontario Nurses' Association has come out to say that patients will pay the price for the job changes. The president of ONA says that more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated nurses are being deleted from the hospital and that poses an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death. ONA is encouraging patients to voice their concerns to their MPPs.

January 12: More than half a dozen nurses at St. Joe's hospital in Hamilton have been assaulted or threatened since mid-December, says the President of the Ontario Nurses' Association (Nurses' Newsline, January 12, 2016). With budget cuts looming, Linda Haslam-Stroud says she fears things will get worse. "There is an ongoing issue with respect to violence towards [registered nurses] at St. Joe's," she says. "There is no way to provide even the current level of service -- as poor as it is -- with the hammer hanging over the budget."

January 12: ONA Bargaining Unit President Sue Sommerdyk says that "studies and studies have shown the higher trained the healthcare provider at the bedside, the better outcomes, so [patients] are not going to have the same quality of care" following drastic RN cuts at Windsor Regional Hospital (Blackburn News, January 12, 2016). Windsor announced it is cutting 120 nurses and replacing 80 RNs with RPN positions. The cutbacks are "hard to swallow" for the RNs. Sommerdyk says it "was a very difficult day and there's more to come." She says morale has taken a hit and nurses feel "concern, worry, upset."

January 12: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that patients will pay the price following Windsor Regional Hospital's announcement that it will cut RN positions (windsoriteDOT.ca News, January 12, 2016). "I am deeply disappointed but not surprised to hear that yet more skilled, knowledgeable and dedicated registered nurses are being deleted..." she said. Doing so, she says, "flies in the face of the research showing the direct link between RN cuts and an increased risk of patients suffering complications and even death."

January 12: ONA is criticizing the decision of Windsor Regional Hospital to cut RNs due to funding and revenue issues (CBC News, January 12, 2016). CEO David Musyj says that to "soften the blow," the hospital will hire 80 RPNs to replace RNs. Susan Sommerdyk, the ONA Bargaining Unit President, says "The government is forcing the hospital's hands to make these changes and these changes are not good for Ontarians. They're not going to be good in the future and they're not going to be good now." Of 166 jobs being cut, 120 are RNs. The other 46 will be a mix of staff including administration positions. Twelve years ago, Windsor Regional switched to an all-RN model of care, saying it was best for patient care.

January 13: Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting its RN staff to help eliminate a $20-million budget shortfall (Windsor Star, January 13, 2016). In total, the hospital is eliminating 120 nursing jobs from an RN workforce of 1,550. Windsor will "switch" 80 RN positions into RPN positions and CEO David Musyj says no patient services are changing, no programs are being reduced and patients won't be affected. RNs say there is plenty of research showing that all-RN hospitals are better for hospitals. "In my opinion, you're putting patients more at risk," said Sue Sommerdyk, president of ONA's Windsor Regional Bargaining Unit. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the RN cuts equate to a quarter million hours of RN care annually. "This is a huge, drastic cut, this is one of the biggest we've seen," she said, asserting that reducing RN staffing results in poorer patient care, from higher infection rates to increased misses and near misses on the hospital floors. "As you cut the RN staff, the patient death and disease rates go up. And Windsor is gutting the RN positions. To be clear, I don't buy that they had to do this." Musyj admits that switching RNs for RPNs contradicts the earlier belief that all-RN hospitals have better outcomes. "But now the [government] funding formula doesn't allow us to do it, so we have to make the change."

January 7: Public Health Nurses at Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health Unit have a new contract (CJTN FM, CJBQ AM, January 7, 2016). The Ontario Nurses' Association members and the employer have negotiated the new three-year agreement.

January 6: CJBQ News (January 6, 2016) reports that ONA members at the Hastings and Prince Edward Board of Health have a new three-year contract.

January 7: Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Board of Health has ratified new contracts with two unions (Belleville Intelligencer, January 7, 2015). Medical officer of health Dr. Richard Schabas says he is proud to have board approval of a new three-year contract with the Ontario Nurses' Association and CUPE. Members of both unions will receive wage increases of 1.75 per cent for 2015, 1.25 for 2016 and one per cent in 2017.

January 6: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says many or all of the violent attacks on nurses at St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton can be attributed to inadequate hospital funding (CHML AM, January 6, 2016). Hospitals have received no funding increases for several years now, and RNs are being cut -- Ontario lost more than 750 RNs last year alone. There aren't enough nurses on staff to de-escalate violent situations. McKenna explains that when people come to hospital, they do so because they need care, attention and support, which nurses provide. Fewer nurses impedes the ability to adequately support and de-escalate volatile situations. While additional security would be helpful, people are looking for treatment and support. Less support equals more agitation for some patients. Nurses are going to work each day "hoping that there is enough staff." However, nurses are becoming very, very fatigued, anxious and they know they're working in an environment that feels unsafe. ONA has been receiving great support from the public on the issue of workplace violence, says McKenna, and ONA will continue to advocate on behalf of patients, as required by the CNO. She adds that administrators cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that their nurses are being injured and beaten at work.

January 6: A St. Joseph's Healthcare patient is facing charges after two nurses were assaulted with a cellphone (Hamilton Spectator, January 6, 2016). A 40-year-old female patient threw a cellphone at staff Monday afternoon, resulting in minor injuries for the two workers at the Charlton campus. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that based on what she was told by her sources, the assailant was escorted from the ER by police officers. The patient also had a dog leash, which she used to hit one of the nurses. Haslam-Stroud says that St. Joe's needs to put in place an antiviolence program. "There is no excuse that any nurse is going to accept that they should be on the receiving end of being pummeled," she said.

January 5: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that more than half a dozen nurses at St. Joseph's Healthcare have been assaulted or threatened since mid-December, and budget cuts threaten to make things worse (CBC News, January 5, 2016). "There is an ongoing issue with respect to violence towards [registered nurses] at St. Joe's," she said. "There is no way to provide even the current level of service, as poor as it is, with the hammer hanging over the budget." The hospital must find $26 million in savings in order to balance its 2016/17 budget. Haslam-Stroud believes that RN positions will be cut, and she ties those cuts to safety. "As they erode these positions, they are essentially putting patients and [nurses] at risk...if you have the appropriate number of nurses there responding, you can deescalate a lot of these situations..." She adds that the hospital should reexamine staffing levels as well as training and education for management and staff. However, considering that it has taken 18 months to agree on the wording for a zero-tolerance for violence in the workplace sign, Haslam-Stroud says that ONA is not holding its breath.

January 1: The top news headlines for 2015 in Kenora included an item from May about ONA (kenoradailyminerandnews.com, January 1, 2016). It notes that ONA was concerned about potential nursing cuts and planned to air their concerns at a town hall meeting. Vicki McKenna, vice-president of ONA, told the Daily Miner and News that nursing cuts at the hospital mean less beds and less nursing care for patients.

January 2: Hamilton Spectator (January 2, 2016) reporters and columnists spoke to those in the region to ask for their list of key issues people will be talking about in 2016. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that RNs will be looking for improvements to hospital funding, monitoring the cutting of RN positions which increases morbidity and mortality of patients, reducing violence against nurses, and maintaining a publicly funded, administered and delivered health-care system.

January 2: The Ontario Nurses' Association is "fighting efforts by regulators to publicly report when nurses commit crimes or fall short of professional standards" (London Free Press, Stratford Beacon-Herald, January 2, 2016). The report says that if ONA members have a drug addiction, they are being told by their union not to tell their employers. Local 100's Jill Ross has written on the Local ONA website that "Our LEAP team encourages members to not self-report an addiction or substance dependency. Contact LEAP." ONA's own newsletter says that the union is very "concerned about the publication of this additional information, especially with respect to criminal charges, in person cautions and...we believe that the College has leaned too far in favour of public disclosure at the expense of nurses' human rights and the principles of fairness." Health Minister Eric Hoskins says that more transparency is needed to hold all health professionals accountable and to improve care and safety for patients."

January 4: A letter to the editor of the Waterloo Region Record (January 4, 2016) says Ontarians should value their health more. Megan Bedbrook, a nurse in the busy ER, says that when fully staffed, a team of 15 nurses often see just shy of 200 patients in a day. "I need to believe that the work we do is important, that the time, effort and sacrifices that we invest into making careers out of caring for other people matters...because at the end of the day, I am more than exhausted. I am depleted." She notes that according to ONA, Ontario has the second-worst RN-to-population ratio in the country. More than one million hours of RN care was cut in 2015 alone. "This does not result in better care. In fact, risk of complications and death increases by seven per cent for each additional patient added to a nurse's workload." Bedbrook writes that health-care is an essential services but doesn't receive the money it needs to provide services.

December 22: 
A breast cancer diagnosis is frightening, but RNs are there with you every step of the way (pubarticles.com, December 22, 2015). RNs are by your side during diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Specially trained RNs in many communities work as breast cancer screeners; when the disease is diagnosed, patients have access in many hospitals to Clinical Nurse Specialists who discuss treatment options, and help you understand the information given to you by the physician. RNs also can provide helpful advice on how to manage side effects from treatments. One ONA member explains that "we are teachers and we are your advocates. We are there to make referrals to dietitians, social workers, financial assistance plans...We are a shoulder to cry on and someone to enjoy a good laugh with." RNs across the health-care system are the glue that holds the system together. That's why some say RNs are invaluable in any health-care setting. For more information, visit www.ona.org/RNs.

December 28: Of the Kingston Whig-Standard's (December 28, 2015) top stories of 2015, ONA's CCAC members' 16-day labour dispute was number 17. The report notes that the CCAC strike came to an end after both sides agreed on February 14 to settle outstanding issues through interest arbitration.

December 30: The Goderich Signal Star (December 30, 2015) wrote that when the local Community Care Access Centre workers went on strike, they picketed outside the town's court house. Ontario Nurses' Association provincial president Linda Haslam-Stroud visited Goderich to support the members, noting that 10 months previously, ONA was able to achieve a 1.4-per-cent wage increase for 55,000 hospital nurses. She said that CCAC members were being refused a "minor, meagre 1.4-per-cent wage increase after we've taken two years of wage freezes in the last three-year contract."

December 30: The top stories of 2015 in Parry Sound (Parry Sound North Star, December 30, 2015) include the strike by nine of the province's 14 CCACs. The piece notes that the strike began in February, when the weather was -30 degrees Celsius. The Ontario Nurses' Association reached an agreement with the CCACs in mid-February.

December 31: The Brockville Recorder and Times (December 31, 2015) has listed its top stories of the year. For July 2015, top stories included Ontario nurses "firing back" against local claims that front-line position cuts won't affect service levels. The Ontario Nurses' Association says that cutting 26 full-time-equivalent RN positions will ultimately lead to "more deaths and more complications."

December 24: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is aware of four incidents of violence in four days at the West 5th campus of St. Joseph's Healthcare (thespec.com, December 24, 2015, Waterloo Region Record, December 26, 2015). She says that inadequate staffing is behind the violence. "My reaction is: violence is not part of RNs' jobs. St. Joe's is going to have to do more than pay lip service to provide us a safe work environment." Police confirm that they are investigating the latest assault. Hospital president Dr. David Higgins said staff have called police and are fully co-operating with the investigation. He disagrees that understaffing is an issue. Instead, Higgins says he wants to improve processes and policies related to each incident. Retired RN Lisa Yanch says that nurses are reluctant to speak out because of fear of reprisals. While she says she left on good terms after 35 years of working at St. Joe's psychiatric care unit, she is concerned about the safety of employees. Haslam-Stroud says incidents of violence are becoming "a weekly if not a daily incident."

December 24: The Board of Health for Grey Bruce Health Unit says that it is "pleased" to announce a tentative agreement with members of the Ontario Nurses' Association  Local 4 (Kincardine News, December 24, 2015). The RNs and Public Health Nurses have a new four-year contract that "honours" the province's public-sector message of fiscal restraint but provides a wage increase of 1.5 per cent in the first year, 1.5 per cent in year two, 1.75 per cent in year four and aligns wages with other sectors within the organization in year four. The nurses will also receive signing bonuses and adjustments in contract language.

December 21: Public health nurses represented by the Ontario Nurses' Association have reached a new four-year agreement (Nurses' Newsline, December 21, 2015). The nurses work for the Grey Bruce Health Unit. The tentative agreement was reached mid-way through the third day of talks.

December 23: The Sarnia Observer (December 23, 2015) has published an account of issues that hit the region hard early in 2015. Among them were cuts to RN jobs at Bluewater Health, and a strike of Erie St. Clair CCAC care coordinators. The ONA members set up picket lines on a rotating basis, and officials were forced to warn that new patients seeking home care and those looking for placement in long-term care could face longer waits.

December 17: Ten per cent of Ontarians suffer from diabetes and have access to a network of RNs and NPs to help care for your and maintain your health (nigeriancanadiannews.ca, December 17, 2015).  Nurses say that many patients find out they're diabetic during a routine physical. Control of blood sugar is vital, says one NP with the Ontario Nurses' Association. "The complications of uncontrolled diabetes can affect major organs of the body, such as the kidneys," she says. "It can also affect the circulatory system and ultimately result in an amputation." The skills and care provided by RNs are the reason why some say an RN is invaluable in any health-care setting. For more information, visit www.ona.org/RNs.

December 18: If you are diagnosed with a condition requiring day surgery, take heart in knowing that a dedicated group of RNs will be there during your surgery (medicalnewstoday.com, December 18, 2015). Surgical nurses have special training and education; patients have access to these skilled RNs to help support and guide them through their surgery. RNs will assess you, prep you for a procedure, and help ensure a safe, optimal outcome. An RN will be there to monitor you in the post-anesthesia care unit, and provide you with important information about what to do if problems occur. RNs are there to support you and your family. For more information, visit www.ona.org/RNs.

December 18: St. Joseph's Hospital is doing a critical incident review and the Ministry of Labour is investigating following an attack on two nurses by a patient at the hospital's mental health facility (CHML AM, December 18, 2015). Both nurses were taken to hospital by ambulance and the Ministry of Labour has been called. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said she has been trying to get anti-violence action taken for months. The 22-year-old patient has been charged with assault.

December 18: Two nurses were physically attacked by a patient at St. Joe's mental health facility this week, leaving staff raising questions about management's slow response to implementing safety measures (CHML News, December 18, 2015). ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said she's been trying for 18 months to get anti-violence action taken by St. Joe's. The new measures won't be in place until January.

December 17: Queen's Park Update (December 17, 2015) reports that Health Minister Eric Hoskins believes his plan to scrap CCACs and transfer care coordinators and their responsibilities to the LHINs will reduce bureaucracy. Commenting on the plan, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that ONA is guardedly optimistic. "If the demise of the CCACs actually cuts out some of the bureaucratic excess that is presently there with the CCACs, and that money is reinvested in patient care, I think it'll be a positive step forward in making the best use of health-care dollars," she said. However, if this is just another layer of bureaucracy under a different name, then it will just create more problems. Haslam-Stroud is also skeptical that all of the LHINs are up to the organizational job they will be asked to perform.

December 18: RPNs and support workers braved cold weather Friday afternoon to stage an information picket to raise awareness of significant job cuts at Runnymede Healthcare Centre (Bloor West Villager, December 18, 2015). The joint ONA-SEIU picket saw participants carrying signs that read: "Stop the Cuts," "Together we Stand" and "Stand up for Justice." The hospital wants to cut nurses and others to "streamline patient services and the patient/client experience." The unions say the cuts are not due to budget constraints and that there is "something inherently wrong with how Runnymede is managed...the hospital had a surplus of 8.5 per cent last year."

December 21: ONA members working for the Grey Bruce Health Unit have a new four-year agreement (Owen Sound Sun Times, December 21, 2015). The agreement was ratified by both sides. It includes wage increases of 1.5 per cent in the first year, 1.5 in year two and 1.75 per cent in the third year. In the fourth year of the contract, the increase will be one per cent or higher if other sectors within the organization receive higher increases.

December 18: A 22-year-old patient has been charged with assault after violently beating two nurses at St. Joseph's Healthcare's mental health facility (The Hamilton Spectator, December 18, 2015). One nurse was left unconscious after the assault and both victims suffered concussions. ONA is criticizing the hospital for being slow in implementing measures to improve staff safety. “For 18 months, the Ontario Nurses’ Association has been trying to get anti-violence actions taken by St. Joe’s,” says Linda Haslam-Stroud, the provincial president of the union and a Hamilton nurse. “It has taken them 18 months of back-and-forth arguing for them to finally come to some conclusions.” The union says that this latest attack shows that increased safety measures must be put in to place in January. There have been 129 reports of assaults on RNs at the hospital since last January. The Ministry of Labour is also investigating this latest incident.

December 12: Expectant parents in Ontario have Labour and Delivery RNs at their side every step of the way (Cambridge Times, City Parent, Ottawa Parenting Times, December 12, 2015). From pre-admission to post-delivery, these skilled and knowledgeable nurses are there to support and care for both moms and infants throughout their hospital stay. Nurses build strong connections with their patients and aim to provide a positive birthing experience. Just 10 per cent of babies are born on their due date, and RNs closely monitor mothers, develop personalized care plans based on the mother's medical history and changes in condition. For the 140,000 babies born in Ontario each year, the education, skills and care these specially trained Labour and Delivery RNs provide is why one reason some say RNs are invaluable in any health-care setting. For more information, visit www.ona.org.

December 8: Ten per cent of Ontarians suffer from diabetes (foodtube.net, December 8, 2015). If you are diabetic, a network of RNs and NPs are there to help care for you and help you maintain your health. Some nurses have specialized training that helps you prevent or manage diabetes. NPs can refer you to special clinics to learn how to manage health threats, and NPs will manage, treat and prescribe medications to control your blood sugar. Nurses say that many patients discover they are diabetic during routine physicals. If diagnosed, control of blood sugar levels is vital, says an NP, a member of the Ontario Nurses' Association. "The complications of uncontrolled diabetes can affect major organs of the body, such as the kidneys. It can also affect the circulatory system, and ultimately result in an amputation." Nurses specializing in diabetes care can be found in every city in Ontario, and their skills and care are the reason why some say an RN is invaluable in any health-care setting.

December 8: Someone suffers a stroke every 10 minutes in Canada, and 14,000 a year die as a result (North Bay Nugget, December 8, 2015). In Ontario, more than 173,000 stroke survivors have access to the Ontario Stroke System, a network of provider organizations and partners that offer comprehensive, integrated, evidence-based care. RNs care for stroke patients from the ER to rehabilitation. Ontario's skilled RNs work to provide their patients with the best health outcome possible after they suffer a stroke. As one ONA member says, "An RN is the first person a stroke patient will meet. RNs have the knowledge, through special stroke education, to give frightened patients and their families the support and guidance they need every step of the way." Registered nurses advise that if you're having a stroke, time is of the essence. Disability and death risks can be minimized by getting to a hospital as quickly as possible.

December 3: Santa Claus "is not immune to the pressures of budget cuts and won't be visiting St. Joe's this year" (CBC News, December 3, 2015). Management of the hospital is searching for $26 million in savings to balance its budget; one of the casualties is the annual Breakfast with Santa event for staff. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said in October that while the Liberals may say they have hired 24,000 nurses since 2003, the reality is that 625 RN positions have been cut in Ontario this year alone. "Our patients are more acute, complex and sicker, and we've reduced the highest skilled level of nurses to care for them," she said. Morale at the hospital has plummeted, and it's now commonplace that when staff are sick, they are not replaced.

December 4: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud’s is warning that while St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton has not as yet announced cuts to nursing positions as it seeks to find $26 million to balance its $550-million budget by 2016/17, nursing cuts are done “by stealth.” Haslam-Stroud said hospitals don’t replace nurses who have retired or moved, or where positions are cut due to layoffs. One of the casualties of the St. Joseph’s budget cuts is its annual free “Breakfast with Santa” for staff, which has now been cancelled (CBC.CA News, December 4, 2015).

December 3: The Ontario Nurses' Association warns of worse care as Quinte Health Care's Board approved its draft 2016-2017 restructuring plan in principle (Trenton Trentonian, December 3, 2015). The four-hospital organization had a small surplus of $301,000 as of September, but to fall in line with its expected provincial funding for the next fiscal year, the operating plan must cut $11.5 million in spending. That has senior staff proposing the removal of 162 positions, the addition of 78 others, and a widespread shuffle of services and staff. While final approval of the plan is due in January, changes remain possible as the corporation and unions meet this month.

November 27: Nurses at Marshall Gowland Manor have won the first round in a likely ongoing battle to preserve its favourable staffing ratio (Sarnia Observer, November 27, 2015). The county-owned facility is reallocating 10 RPN shifts to Ontario Nurses' Association member RNs. Under ONA's current contract, four RNs are required for every two RPNs scheduled. An arbitrator has ruled that the county will spend an additional $25,000 annually to cover the change in staffing. The county's general manager of long-term care, Chris Doyle, says costs will rise "because we do need PSWs. They do the majority of the day-to-day - hygiene, feeding work - that goes on in the home, so we're working on a report on what the impact will be..." RNs are primarily responsible for handling the more complex work, he says. Doyle says the issue is not an "RN against RPN" argument, but "RNs have more of the team leadership role, so they're more of the critical thinking, they're more of dealing with residents, they're dealing more with residents' families, they're dealing more with the complex problems on a day-to-day basis in a care home."

December 1: Close to 1,000 protesters attended a rally in North Bay, calling on the government to free up money for hospitals in Northern Ontario (North Bay Nugget, December 1, 2015). CFNU President Linda Silas spoke at the rally and said that Northern Ontario hospitals are seeing "the most severe cuts." ONA Local Coordinator Debbie McCrank was at the rally and said that cuts "impact all the North." "It comes down to cheaper care versus quality care...The province is driven by the budget, not by the concern for quality health care.”




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