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 23: Susan Prettejohn is hoping to win reelection to the Elizabethtown-Kirley Township council (Brockville Recorder & Times, October 23, 2014.) The registered nurse is running for a third term because she likes “being part of a community and giving back to the community.” During her nursing career, Prettejohn worked at Kemptville District Hospital and was also actively involved in the Ontario Nurses’ Association. She says her ONA experience is “proof of how she likes to help people.”

October 22: Arbitration hearings are getting underway for Ontario’s 168 for-profit nursing homes and the 3,000 Ontario Nurses’ Association members who work in them (Bayshore Broadcasting, October 22, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that mediation between her group and negotiators for the homes ended in late September over the employers’ demand to reduce staffing. Haslam-Stroud says that cuts would come as new patients arrive at long-term care facilities with more chronic illnesses and higher care needs than ever before.

October 23: The Ontario Nurses’ Association expects to file a grievance in response to the stabbing of one of its RN members at the Brockville Mental Health Centre (Brockville Recorder & Times, October 23, 2014.) ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that violence against nurses has increased at a range of health care facilities and “it can’t be left alone to solve itself. We are more than concerned about the situation in Brockville.” The Ministry of Labour has written a series of orders against the facility. McKenna says that part of the problem is the number of staff working in the unit and the “way patients are classified.” In addition, the layout of rooms and units, availability of training, supplies and safeguards can also impact responses to violent incidents. The nurse was repeatedly stabbed in the throat by a patient in the forensic treatment unit. She has since been released from hospital to continue to recover at home.

October: ONA Health & Safety expert Nancy Johnson has co-authored a piece on health care workplace safety with Linda Silas and Kate Rexe (Longwoods). The article explores the lessons of SARS and the ability of Canada’s health system to respond to a crisis. The three note that during SARS, Canada’s health system was not prepared to quickly and efficiently deal with a health emergency, especially in Toronto; post-SARS, the country actively engaged in plans to prepare for a future pandemic. The authors are still calling for the adoption of the precautionary principle, and say this will ensure adequate staffing. They encourage communications, building alliances and making emergency preparedness a priority.

October 24: Collingwood’s General and Marine Hospital is now implementing its Ebola screening process, asking those visiting the ER about travel history (Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, October 24, 2014). The hospital has four negative pressure rooms to handle a case of Ebola, though Dr. Colin Lee, associate medical officer of health for the South Muskoka District Health Unit, says that Ebola is not airborne so the negative pressure rooms are not necessary. Nurses’ unions have been vocal about the lack of Ebola preparedness in Canadian hospitals. In response to their concerns, the provincial health minister has announced that he will ensure that nurses and health care workers “have the maximum protection possible.”

October 17: ONA is encouraged by plans announced by Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins to protect nurses during a possible Ebola outbreak (Nurses Newsline, October 17, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud said that using occupational health and safety standards to guide the work of the government is a positive step. She noted that the late Justice Archie Campbell recommended the precautionary principle be used in our health care facilities to provide safe work environments for health care workers. Haslam-Stroud says ONA is committed to working with employers to avoid repeating the mistakes that were made in a Dallas hospital.

October 21: A commentary on the Rick Mercer Report (CBC, October 21, 2014) says that nurses deserve our support because they’re always there for us. Mercer said that “when SARS happened, when the city of Toronto was bathing in Purell, the nurses went to work every day. And when they got sick, other nurses, they replaced them. And now, now we have this terrible thing, Ebola. It has yet to and perhaps never will reach our shores. But if it does, we know what will happen. We will run for the hills, they will run into the room. So let us take a moment and praise the nurses. And let it be known that in this country, in Canada, no nurse should be denied the equipment or training they need to do their job safely.”

October 21: Officials at Windsor Regional Hospital are preparing for Ebola by taking a level of precaution “not seen since the SARS crisis” (Windsor Star, October 21, 2014.) The hospital’s chief executive and chief nursing executive say the hospital has been engaged in preparations since mid-summer. There is a core group of 20 to 30 staff members who will be trained in the correct use of the protective gear at each of the hospital’s two ERs. The hospital has 150 of the full-body suits at its Ouellette campus and 200 at the Met campus.

October 20: The CBC’s Dr. Brian’s Blog (October 20, 2014) discusses whether health care workers have the right to refuse to treat Ebola patients. Last week, a number of nursing organizations raised concerns across the country about nurses lacking the proper protective equipment and training to safely care for Ebola patients. In Alberta, Health Services told nurses that if they refuse to treat a patient with Ebola, they could face disciplinary action. Quebec nurses are also concerned. Nurses would spend the most time in close, repeated contact with these patients; in 2010, the Ontario Nurses’ Association provided members with a paper that says provincial legislation gives health care workers a limited right to refuse unsafe work without fear of reprisal, provided there are circumstances where the worker has reason to believe there is danger. An example is the right to refuse work with any equipment or device that is likely to endanger them or the patient. The ONA report says that there was at least one case during SARS of a nurse exercising her right to refuse work; she would not care for a SARS patient until taught to safely don her N95 respirator. Dr. Brian writes that he hopes the new upgraded Ebola protocols and safety measures work. In his opinion, the “more uncertain authorities are about the effectiveness of methods of protecting health care workers, the less right they have to demand that health care workers care for Ebola patients.”

October 20: The federal government has announced that it will not send any more experts to help contain Ebola without a guarantee that they can be medically evacuated if they fall ill (CBC News, October 20, 2014.) In other developments, the CFNU says it has met with officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada about updated safety guidelines for treating Ebola patients. Linda Silas says the guidelines fall short in areas such as the quality of the masks available to nurses. She is also calling for public education and preparedness test drills.

October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that it had a lot of concerns about Ebola preparedness and protection of health care workers, but following the announcement by the Minister of Health regarding enhanced protocols, things are a bit better (CFRT AM, October 17, 2014.) ONA now says it is absolutely reassured “that we have an open door and open telephone line with the minister directly, that he listens to us and he responds quickly.” Among the enhancements are new rules that two nurses will, at all times, be providing care to each Ebola patient and not providing care for anyone else. Personal protective equipment will also be enhanced for caregivers.

October 17: While the risk is very low, Ebola virus concerns are “very high” for Ontario’s nurses, doctors and other health care workers (CBC Radio 1 Toronto & Windsor, October 17, 2014.) Now, Health Minister Eric Hoskins has moved to relieve fears in the health-care sector by announcing enhanced preparations. The Ontario Nurses’ Association has reacted to Hoskins’ announcement in a statement. ONA says that it is encouraged by the minister’s plan to keep health care workers safe.

October 17: The provincial government is stepping up its efforts to contain and treat potential cases of Ebola virus (CFMJ AM, October 17, 2014.) Following an announcement of enhanced procedures and new protective equipment and training requirements, the Ontario Nurses' Association released a statement saying that it is encouraged and pleased with the measures.

October 17: A directive from Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins has been sent to hospitals and other acute care settings that will expand training, provide extra protective equipment and improve protocols for diagnosing and treating Ebola (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) Hoskins announced that hospitals will designate two nurses at all times to provide care to any confirmed Ebola patient, and those nurses will not be allowed to care for any other patients simultaneously.

October 18: The General Campus of The Ottawa Hospital is ramping up training and equipment after it was named as a provincial referral hospital for Ebola (ottawacitizen.com, October 18, 2014.) CHEO’s head of infectious diseases, Dr. Lindy Samson, says the hospital is taking the designation seriously. Special teams will be set up and will receive intensive training. There are five designated spaces to isolate patients. The hospital also says that it has listened to the concerns of nurses who deal with a suspected case last week and has upgraded its safety equipment. Nurses said the equipment they were provided with left their skin exposed, and they felt that they were not properly trained.

October 17: The Ontario SARS commission, headed by then-Justice Archie Campbell, recommended a precautionary approach that errs on the side of caution to ensure a safe work environment (CP, October 17, 2014.) In the face of a potential case of Ebola virus, ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says that the union is “pleased to hear that occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government.”

October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association is pleased to hear that “occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government,” said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud following the announcement of Ontario’s Ebola preparedness plan (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) She says the plan will keep patients and nurses – as well as the public – safe. The health ministry is also creating a special Ebola Command Table and an advisory table on Ebola preparedness.

October 17: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that the strategy announced by the Ministry of Health to designate 10 Ontario hospitals as Ebola treatment centres worked during the SARS crisis (Canadian Press, October 17, 2014.) “The designated hospitals will provide special isolation units that are necessary to properly treat patients while keeping workers and the public safe,” said Linda Haslam-Stroud.

October 18: Housekeepers have called in the Ministry of Labour to investigate a lack of training and knowledge and the lack of proper protective equipment at McMaster Children’s Hospital – after the workers refused to clean the room of a possible Ebola patient (Hamilton Spectator, October 18, 2014.) Hamilton Health Sciences is one of 10 designated provincial hospitals to be named by the Minister of Health as Ebola centres. However, it was recently found to have fallen short in protecting its cleaning staff. CUPE’s chair of the health and safety committee said the situation was “pure chaos.” The MOL investigation led to five orders being written against the hospital. Two involved training staff and on how to properly use safety equipment. New measures announced by Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health last Friday won praise from the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Ontario Medical Association and the Respiratory Therapy Society of Ontario.

October 16: As Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, insisted that the province is more than ready to treat anyone with Ebola, but nurses are saying that they don’t feel prepared to handle the virus (CHML Hamilton, October 16, 2014.) CFNU President Linda Silas says the health care system needs to be faster. “We want to make sure that when the first patient walks through the door in Canada, we will be well prepared and we will be able to provide care for the patient and their family, but also protect our health care workers,” she said.

October 18: An opinion editorial (National Post, October 18, 2014) says that Ebola caught North America napping and it’s now clear that we have been “grotesquely over-confident.” The head of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, Linda Silas, suggested that many hospitals are not prepared; nurses in hospitals that treated Ebola false alarms recently reported that they were not given the proper equipment to keep them safe. The piece asks if we have already forgotten SARS.

October 17: Healthcare workers at 13 Ontario hospitals were not prepared to care for Ebola cases, Ministry of Labour inspectors has found (Globe and Mail, October 17, 2014.) Among the issues are a lack of training, a lack of protective equipment and housekeepers who refused to clean the room of a suspected Ebola patient because they lacked training. The ministry has issued 50 compliance orders to 13 hospitals and one paramedic service since August. The orders back up claims from nursing leaders across the province that we are no better prepared for Ebola than their beleaguered counterparts in Dallas were. Just two hospitals – North York General and Lakeridge Health – passed the inspections.

October 16: The Ontario Nurses’ Association says that we need to be better prepared to care for patients with Ebola (CKAT AM North Bay, October 16, 2014.) ONA says that that front-line health care workers need to be better prepared. RNAO head Doris Grinspun says that some nurses say that the only information they have received to date is through email.

October 17: The President of Ontario Nurses’ Association Local 83 says some nurses who deal with a false Ebola scare at the Ottawa Hospital are calling it a nightmare (CFRA AM, October 17, 2014.) Frances Smith says nurses were given protective equipment that left them exposed to possible infection at their necks and wrists.

October 18: Brantford General Hospital will hold a mock Ebola exercise to test the readiness of medical personnel to deal with the disease (Brantford Expositor, October 18, 2014.) The hospital has an Ebola readiness group. Meanwhile, the health minister has announced a provincial Ebola readiness plan. Earlier in the week, the Ontario Nurses’ Association sounded the alarm, saying that they don’t feel prepared to tackle the virus should Canada get a case.

October 17: Ontario nurses who were critical of government for being unprepared to deal with an Ebola patient say they’re satisfied with the more robust set of guidelines released Friday by the health ministry (Queen’s Park Briefing, October 17, 2014.) ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says the union “is pleased to hear that occupational health and safety standards will guide the work of the government. The ministry will also provide the necessary funding for these measures to protect health care workers to the maximum extent possible. All of these components are critical for success.”

October 17: Health Minister Rona Ambrose has announced an additional $30 million for international efforts for Ebola (CBC.CA News, October 17, 2014.) Meanwhile, in Ontario, the ministry announced that it is enhancing preparations to fight Ebola, including adding staff, designating 10 hospitals as referral centres and planning for two nurses to exclusively care for any Ebola patient in the province’s 10 designated hospitals. More protective equipment will be available for those caring for these patients. ONA president Linda Haslam-Stroud says the “designated hospitals will provide special isolation units that are necessary to properly treat patients while keeping workers and the public safe.”

October 17: ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud is concerned about the training that RNs at Belleville General Hospital have had (CJOJ, October 17, 2014.) She says the hospital and its nurses were not prepared for a potential Ebola patient. Haslam-Stroud also notes that there have been eight to 10 potential Ebola cases in hospitals across the province this fall. ONA has informed the ministers of health and labour of concerns.

October 18: London Health Sciences Centre has been designated as one of Ontario’s 10 Ebola treatment centres (London Free Press, October 18, 2014.) On Friday, Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins rolled out new measures to fight Ebola. There are strict protocols in place for donning and doffing protective equipment, detailed plans for the movement of potential Ebola patients through the hospital and care area, and for cleaning and handling waste. ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud says she is encouraged by the steps taken by Hoskins. ONA had been sharply critical of the lack of preparation, but the commitment that only those nurses that have been properly trained will handle potential Ebola patients is “a big step.”

October 16: ONA First Vice-President Vicki McKenna says that the union is hearing from its members that Ontario is not fully prepared for an Ebola case (CBC Radio 1 Toronto, October 16, 2014.) McKenna says ONA will meet with the ministers of health and labour about preparedness levels and protocols. ONA will discuss preparedness, equipment, training, drills, screening and communication with the government. She notes that Justice Archie Campbell was “very clear about the fault in communication lines and what happened during SARS and we should have learned that lesson well by now.” ONA also wants to see power air purifying respirators provided for nurses performing high-risk aerosol procedures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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