COVID-19 Updates

April 16, 2021

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Vaccine Information Town Halls ONA News and Media Government Updates and Guidance Other Resources
Vaccine Information Town Halls ONA News and Media
Government Updates and Guidance Other Resources

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.

Health and Safety Checklist for Redeployment

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

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Telephone Town Halls: Thursday, April 15, 2021

ONA First Vice-President Cathryn Hoy, CEO Beverly Mathers and ONA President Vicki McKenna held Telephone Town Halls/Facebook Live on Thursday, April 15. These sessions covered the latest developments on redeployment, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, vaccine rollouts, implications of the third wave, changes to Directives, PPE and an update on ONA’s judicial review application.

Click here to listen to the 5:30 p.m. town hall.

Click here to listen to the 7:30 p.m. town hall.

View the questions-and-answers document based on your questions from the April 15 Town Hall.

ONA Media

ONA in the News

  • The Globe and Mail (June 1, 2021) reports on the province’s new expanded program to train student nurses on the job and ease some of the staffing pressures caused by COVID-19. The program, called an externship, was launched to relieve some of the strain on hospital staff during the pandemic’s second wave. Students are paid slightly more than the hourly minimum wage to perform tasks that assist with daily living, such as bathing, feeding and making beds, working in a role similar to a PSW. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is just one hospital in a vast system that faces shortages in many areas, but it currently has 91 vacancies for registered nurses in critical care, 10 in the operating room and 192 in other areas of the hospital. The hospital is aiming to direct all the externs it has hired to train in those areas of critical shortage. Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says the externships can address two issues: the extraordinary burden on full-time nurses during the pandemic, and the loss of clinical placements that were put off because of health and safety concerns. She adds that ONA is supportive of the externship program but would like to see it extended across all areas of the province and funded beyond this year. At the moment, the program is not available in parts of Northern Ontario, where recruitment and retention challenges are particularly acute. “This is a valuable program. but it is also a temporary program right now. We would love to see it become permanent,” she says.
  • A guest column by ONA President Vicki McKenna (Toronto Star, May 28, 2021) says that Ontario nurses and health-care professionals are angry and will be participating in a virtual rally today to protest the Ford government’s wage-suppression legislation, Bill 124. For more than a decade in Ontario, successive governments have attempted to save money by limiting their pay increases, ranging from a two-year wage freeze to increases consistently less than the rate of inflation. When inflation is factored in, Ontario nurses and health-care professionals have actually seen a wage cut of five per cent over the past few years. Nurses and health-care professionals, writes McKenna, and “are not willing to accept this government’s disrespect towards them and their profession another day. The Ford government appears to have used the COVID-19 pandemic to further degrade their working conditions. Nurses and health-care professionals were already burned out and exhausted before the pandemic, due to short staffing and a lack of respect.” She notes that the government has cut public health funding, and “the hits have kept coming during the pandemic, with many negatively impacting those on the front lines.” It is not surprising that nurses and health-care professionals believe this government views them as expendable. “Bill 124 is one step too far. They have risked their health, their lives and the lives of their families throughout the pandemic to be there for those who need them,” McKenna writes. “As nurses and health-care professionals rally virtually today, please support them and acknowledge their value. Tell your MPP to withdraw Bill 124 and finally show some fairness to those who have gone so far and above the call of duty to care for you.”
  • The Hamilton Spectator (May 28, 2021) reports that Ontario nurses are set to rally against wage suppression legislation “at the same time the province is temporarily paying doctors up to $450 an hour to work in hospitals during the pandemic. The most highly paid nurses — with 25 years’ experience — get $48.53 an hour in Ontario. A new nurse is paid $33.90, reports the Spectator. Nurses stopped getting pandemic pay more than eight months ago as the program ran in 2020 from April 24 to Aug. 13. Doctors were not part of that program, and a spokesperson from the office of Health Minister Christine Elliott stresses the temporary physician funding for hospitals set out April 10 isn’t pandemic pay. The hourly pay — ranging from $125 to $450 depending on the type of work and time of day — is meant to enable hospitals to more easily redeploy doctors during COVID surges. The report says the doctor pay has further inflamed nurses at a time when they are fighting Bill 124, which restricts raises in the public sector to one per cent annually for three years. Nurses are holding a virtual rally Friday from noon to 1:15 p.m. saying they feel disrespected by the government despite their work during the pandemic. “The premier has failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment, sick pay to those exposed to COVID-19 and has overridden their contracts to allow employers to redeploy them anywhere, any time,” Vicki McKenna, president of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, says. McKenna says nurses don’t expect to be paid the same as doctors but are “frustrated and angry” because they “have not been acknowledged in the same way. Nurses are left out,” she says. “If they are going to employ COVID pay scales and premiums, it should be for everyone.”
  • ONA Region 1 Vice-President Dawn Armstrong has written an opinion editorial in the Sudbury Star (May 22, 2021).  She assures Sudbury residents their dedicated and highly skilled health-care professionals continue to work with essential team members in the health-care system throughout the pandemic. Armstrong writes that “the paramedical team – dietitians, social workers, recreational therapists, physiotherapists and other, highly skilled workers – provides care for those suffering a range of health-care issues and injuries – some brought on by COVID-19’s isolation and distress, others due to falls or accidents.” The paramedical team has shown unceasing dedication during the most difficult of times as Sudburians – increasingly isolated due to lockdown restrictions – have stayed at home and lost their social lives and the ability to exercise and maintain their strength, eventually becoming more vulnerable to falls and injuries. Throughout the pandemic, the paramedical team has cared for patients who have been impacted by more than the coronavirus. Yet this team has lacked the support and recognition of the health-care teams they work alongside each day. Armstrong points out that the paramedical team has rallied in Sudbury to raise awareness of the Ford government’s passage of legislation that removes their right to freely negotiate a collective agreement and suppresses their wages (Bill 124) and overrides their current contract provisions (Bill 195). Both send a strong message that devalues their work. “It is well past the time the Ontario government and employers both respected and supported the forgotten team members of their health-care system,” she believes.
  • A study from the University of Toronto has found that while nurses have repeatedly been called “heroes” throughout the pandemic, the label normalizes the risks nurses always face on the job (U of T News, May 19, 2021). The study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, examined media coverage depicting nurses across the United States, United Kingdom and Canada from March to August 2020, with researchers analyzing their findings through the theoretical framework of post-structuralism. It found that the ’hero’ label wasn’t merely a neutral expression of appreciation and sentimentality, but rather “a tool employed to accomplish multiple aims such as the normalization of nurses’ exposure to risk, the enforcement of model citizenship, and the preservation of existing power relationships” that may be preventing nurses from improving their working conditions. The Ontario Nurses’ Association has reported that the province has one of the lowest nurse-to-patient ratios in the country, which is why, one of the researchers says, the pandemic caught the health-care system off guard. To remedy this, nurses want an increase in resources and funding to help sustain the profession and manage the burnout that many nurses feel acutely, he says. “Investment in nursing is an investment in health for everybody. You can’t remove this profession from the health-care system.”
  • CityNews (May 18, 2021) reports that Ontario’s four largest health-care unions are accusing the Ford government of not valuing front-line workers. The leaders, including ONA President Vicki McKenna, held a media conference to discuss the serious impact on those struggling to care for patients during the pandemic. Union leaders are calling for the immediate repeal of Bill 124, which they call “wage-suppression legislation.” Bill 124, passed by the Ford government in 2019, is aimed at the broader public sector, including hospitals and long-term care homes, among many others, that do not carry on activities for the purpose of gain or profit. The legislation imposes a series of three-year “moderation periods” that include salary and compensation caps. Earlier this year, ONA launched legal action against the Ford government after it refused to exempt front-line workers from Bill 124.

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For the latest information, visit the Ontario government's COVID-19 webpage.

MOH Coronavirus Situation Reports

June 10, 2021: MOH Coronavirus Situation Report #448

Click here to view previous MOH Coronavirus Situation Reports.

COVID-19 Command Table Updates

Click here to view all Provincial Command Table Memorandums.

COVID-19 Collaboration Table Summaries

Government Orders

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

Visit the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 guidance page for the latest guidance for the health sector. Click here to view these guidance documents in French.

Amended documents relating to the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020

Government Resources

Other Resources

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Guidance documents

For communities

For Health Professionals

Other resources


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