Media Statement: Algoma Public Health Cuts Nurses Even as Health Unit Lags Far Behind in Child Immunizations

January 16, 2024

SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, January 16, 2024 – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) is dumbfounded at the decision of Algoma Public Health to issue layoff notices to registered nurses (RNs) when thousands of area children are behind in their immunizations.

“Public health nurses immunize and ensure children are safe to attend school, yet this public health unit has eliminated eight RN positions. Nurses in the immunization program are completely overwhelmed with the thousands of vaccines that need to be provided to children,” notes ONA Provincial President Erin Ariss, RN. “Thousands of vaccines are still to be administered in order to catch up, a fact this employer is choosing to ignore at the expense of the safety of the community’s children.”

Ariss says, “These front-line service cuts should set off loud warning bells to every resident of the District of Algoma. We all need the expert care and services of our public health nurses and health-care professionals now more than ever; any cuts to the front lines will be paid for with massively increased risks to the health and safety of our residents.”

Ariss notes that Algoma already offers fewer public flu vaccine clinics, no in-person prenatal services, and that several programs for new parents and their babies have already been cut. “These cuts have already created a large gap in public health services,” says Ariss, “at a time when people across the province are struggling to find even basic care. Public health services are meant to reduce harm, prevent illness and improve the health of the population. It is nonsensical to cut those services when we all need them more than ever.”

ONA is calling on the Board of Health for the District of Algoma to protect the delivery of these invaluable services and care and reverse these front-line staff cuts. “Our nurses are exhausted after years of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now facing massive backlogs in immunizations and infectious disease programs, to proceed with these cuts would do nothing but hurt our communities,” Ariss says.

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.