August 17, 2021
Send your message and tell the Ontario government to protect patients, residents and clients and the valued registered nurses and health-care professionals that care for them.
Tell the Ontario government to support health-care professionals who must have access to proper PPE.
ONA is closely monitoring this situation, and has initiated a special task force to monitor and respond to the threat of the coronavirus. We will provide information, and actions as the information unfolds. If you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your Bargaining Unit President.
ONA Members: Please send your COVID-19 questions to COVIDQuestions@ona.org.
Bill 195 – the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020
On July 7, 2020, the Solicitor General introduced Bill 195 – the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. ONA strongly opposes Bill 195 as a draconian, sweeping and unnecessary grant of power to employers to override collective agreement provisions and the grievance arbitration procedure. It permits the government to continue to maintain and modify emergency orders made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act for at least a year after the end of the declared emergency, and possibly longer. We will continue to provide updates as Bill 195 works through the legislative process and we will advise if public hearings are called. Click here to learn more.
Alert – Substitution of Technical Grade Ethanol in Hand Sanitizer
It has come to our attention that, due to supply issues, some manufacturers are substituting food grade ethanol with technical grade ethanol in some hand sanitizers. Health Canada has issued a time limited approval to use technical grade ethanol while supply shortages of the higher-grade ethanol exist. However, because it contains toxicological properties including carcinogenicity, Health Canada has required that manufacturers notify all customers that technical grade ethanol is in the product and to label the containers with the following warnings: “Do not use on broken or damaged skin. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not inhale.” Click here for the complete memo.
Redeployment to Long-Term Care
As a result of emergency orders issued, some health-care employers may redeploy staff to long-term care homes. Below is a checklist designed to help you ensure that you are provided with the training, education, information, instruction and supervision required to keep you safe during your deployment. If, after completing this checklist, any of the boxes remain unticked immediately advise your supervisor and speak to your JHSC ONA representative and your Bargaining Unit President.
Inappropriate Face Masks
We are aware that reusable face masks are being made with cotton fabric. These are being offered to nurses and health-care professionals. Please know that the effectiveness of these cotton face masks is unproven, and may put you further at risk. Our best advice is to respectfully decline the offer of these cotton face masks. We strongly advise you to continue to use only approved personal protective equipment. See guidance from Health Canada at this link
ONA Vaccination Statement
The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) and its members are doing their part in both administering the vaccine and receiving it themselves.
ONA recommends that health-care workers receive the vaccine if they can, while recognizing that this is a decision that needs to be made by the health-care worker based on voluntary and informed consent, and where appropriate, with the advice of a health-care professional.
COVID-19 vaccinations, while beneficial in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, are not a complete answer, but only part of a health and safety and infection control program. ONA expects all employers to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and take every precaution reasonably necessary to protect the health and safety of workers. This includes easy access to, and the use of, N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment.
ONA encourages employers to remove the barriers that are likely causing vaccine hesitancy. Some employers are making little meaningful effort to facilitate staff vaccination uptake.
For example, are they hosting vaccine clinics at their workplaces? Are they providing sick pay to employees who cannot work following their vaccination due to side effects? Punishing or shaming unvaccinated employees is not the answer. Providing sick pay to any employee experiencing side effects, including part-time and casual employees, and providing paid time to obtain the vaccine would foster vaccine uptake.
Government of Canada
Ontario Ministry of Health
Visit the Ministry of Health website to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario.
- COVID-19 About Vaccines (December 12, 2020)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Approval Process and Safety (December 12, 2020)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Availability and Rollout (December 12, 2020)
- COVID-19 Cover Letter for Long-Term Care Home Staff (December 12, 2020)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Consent Form (December 14, 2020)
- COVID-19 What you need to know before your COVID-19 vaccine appointment (December 13, 2020)
- COVID-19 Administration of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (December 13, 2020)
- COVID-19 Vaccine Information Sheet - Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (December 13, 2020)
- COVID-19 Vaccine After Care Sheet (December 12, 2020)
- COVID-19 Guidance: Managing Health Care Workers with Symptoms within 48 Hours of Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine (December 14, 2020) English | French
Telephone Town Halls: Wednesday, September 15, 2021
ONA First Vice-President Cathryn Hoy, CEO Beverly Mathers and ONA President Vicki McKenna held two telephone town halls on Wednesday, September 15. These sessions covered vaccine policies, ONA's position and any vaccine-related questions that members had.
View the questions-and-answers document based on your questions from the April 15 Town Hall.
- September 13, 2021: MEDIA STATEMENT: Ontario Nurses’ Association Adamantly Opposed to Today’s Anti-Vaccine Protests
- April 30, 2021: ‘Inaction is not an option,’ says Ontario Nurses’ Association as Long-Term Care-COVID-19 Report Released
- April 28, 2021: MEDIA STATEMENT: ONA Supports the Auditor-General’s Recommendations on the Serious Staffing and Infection Control Issues in Long-Term Care
- April 28, 2021: Ontario Nurses’ Association to Mark a Sombre National Day of Mourning
- March 29, 2021: Ontario Nurses’ Association Urges Action to Protect Workers Now Following Quebec Legal Decision
- March 23, 2021: ‘Litany of Failures’ Made Long-Term Care COVID-19 Deaths Worse, Says New Report
- March 22, 2021: Ontario Nurses’ Association Makes Recommendations To Fix Long-Term Care in Wake of COVID-19
- March 1, 2021: Ontario Nurses’ Association Launches Ad Campaign “As Pandemic Continues, Courageous Nurses Hold the Line”
ONA in the News
- At least 860 people have died of COVID-19 in Ontario hospital outbreaks (Toronto Star, September 16, 2021). This makes hospitals Ontario’s second-deadliest setting for COVID-19 outbreaks in the pandemic, behind long-term care homes but ahead of retirement homes. Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious diseases consultant at the University Health Network, says this “unmitigated tragedy” highlights the need for changes to better control the spread of respiratory diseases in hospitals. Critics of the province’s pandemic guidelines for hospitals, say they are at odds with the latest research that highlights the strong risks of airborne transmission. “This high number of deaths in hospitals tells us that COVID-19 is indeed airborne as the Ontario Nurses’ Association warned from the very beginning of the pandemic,” ONA President Vicki McKenna said Wednesday. “It didn’t have to be this way and the government was advised many times.” In May, the province defeated a court challenge from ONA that called on the chief medical officer of health to update Directive 5 to recognize the airborne risk of COVID-19, including enforcing a mandate to use N95 respirators. Twenty-nine infection prevention and control professionals, representing 24 Ontario hospital networks, supported the province against the union’s court challenge, signing their names endorsing Directive 5 and stating their opinion that COVID is primarily spread by “droplet and contact” route, rather than airborne transmission. Directive 5 was updated in October, but the focus on “droplet and contact” protocols, with situational exceptions, remains unchanged since spring 2020.
- Despite condemnation from local officials, dozens of protesters rallied against vaccine mandates outside The Ottawa Hospital on Monday (CTV News Ottawa, September 13, 2021). The protest group described the event as a “silent vigil of solidarity.” In a statement, ONA President Vicki McKenna said the union is opposed to the protests taking place outside hospitals. “We know from previous protests on the streets in front of hospitals, that nurses and health-care professionals, along with their patients and their families, were harassed entering the facilities, and we implore these protesters to ensure their safe passage. Hospitals must be safe zones for patients, families and staff.”
- There are mixed reactions six days after Windsor Regional Hospital announced its new vaccination policy (CTV Two Windsor, September 8, 2021). Employment lawyers say it’s a necessary and legal step. While the Ontario Nurses’ Association supports COVID-19 vaccines and encourages members to get vaccinated, the union believes hospitals need to spend more time talking with staff to address vaccine hesitancy.
- TVO.org (September 6, 2021) has republished an article with permission from The Conversation about health-care worker burnout. The piece notes that it’s “no surprise” that the pandemic has boosted burnout rates, and the authors say the health-care system requires “systemic change.” It notes that many health-care workers resent how their employers are handling a depleted workforce. Clinical psychologist Dana Ménard found that incentives for new hires caused anger among those who had been on the front lines for a year with no retention rewards. Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, expressed concerns about staffing, telling a reporter, “I fear that it is going to be devastating to the workforce. I’m very worried about the future of the nursing workforce.” Appreciating what is happening to these nurses and how to respond hinges on understanding burnout, which may be the primary occupational hazard of health-care work.
For the latest information, visit the Ontario government's COVID-19 webpage.
Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) COVID-19 Directives
Ontario Health Memo
Re: Ramp down of elective surgeries and non-emergent/non-urgent acute care activities (April 8, 2021)
Re: Supporting Health Care Workers and Hospitals with Authority for Enhanced Practice Scope within Alternate Models of Care and Staff Redeployment from Independent Health Facilities (April 22, 2021)
COVID-19 Command Table Updates
Click here to view all Provincial Command Table Memorandums.
COVID-19 Collaboration Table Summaries
Click here for the complete list of Emergency Orders that have been put in place to-date.
Recent Government Communications
Click here for a complete list of government memos and communications.
Guidance for the Health Sector
Amended documents relating to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020
- Updated Case Definition - COVID-19
- The link below is produced and monitored by HealthForceOntario to recruit health-care professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic "who may be working part-time and want to and are prepared to increase their work hours or former healthcare providers who are retired, or on inactive status with their regulatory college; and are prepared to return to employment." Note that ONA does not endorse nurses and health-care professionals working in more than one health-care facility during a pandemic. This is also advice recommended by Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. http://www.healthforceontario.ca/en/M4/COVID19
- Preventing 2019-nCoV Novel Coronavirus from Spreading to Others in Homes and Communities
- FAQs on 2019 Novel Coronavirus (February 12, 2020)
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Guidance documents
For Health Professionals
- NEW! Infection prevention and control for COVID-19: Interim guidance for acute healthcare settings
- UPDATED! Recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna section)
- Public health management of cases and contacts associated with COVID-19
- Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers (OHCOW) resources and webinars
- College of Nurses of Ontario Practice Guideline: Refusing Assignments and Discontinuing Nursing Services
- Read this piece from the College of Nurses of Ontario "Risking fatigue by working long hours".
- National Nurses United created an online memorial to honour nurses around the world who have died during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Proper N95 Respirator Use for Respiratory Protection Preparedness