COVID-19 Updates

December 21, 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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ONA Heroes

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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.

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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.

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

  • CTV News Ottawa (January 10, 2022) reports that The Ottawa Hospital has a surge plan that includes moving some patients to a gym at its Rehabilitation Centre. On Friday, Ontario set a pandemic record: 2,472 patients in hospital across the province; a figure not only higher than the peak in wave three but one that comes at a time where the health-care system is even further strained than it was in April. ONA Bargaining Unit President Rachel Muir, RN, says, “we were at about 115 per cent capacity and I understand from my team members for the union there that that has got significantly worse over the weekend.” The Ottawa Hospital could not say how many additional beds the new measures would provide but some health-care workers are concerned it could lead to more staffing challenges. Muir says, “We are in a staffing crisis and to add more beds just makes that worse because we don’t have adequate staff for the beds we have. It means higher patient ratios; so where nurses normally would be looking after four or five patients, now they will be looking after six, seven, eight patients.” Along with staffing challenges, Muir says the new surge protocol will make it more difficult for nurses to do their jobs, tasked with caring for more patients in areas that can be ill-equipped to do so. “You’re in spaces that are not meant to have patients in them so it means you have to bring in things like oxygen canisters if that’s what they need. You have to set up other ways of patients contacting you, because you don’t have call bell systems,” Muir says. “You don’t have bathrooms, you don’t have shower facilities, because these areas are not meant to house patients, so everything you would normally take for granted, you don’t have. It’s just inherently more difficult.”
  • CBC News (January 11, 2022) reports that Ottawa's largest hospitals say they may call in symptomatic health-care workers with COVID-19 to work should their staffing crisis become dire — a policy move that hospitals across the continent are making amid the Omicron surge, say experts. The hospital says that "if exceptionally critical to operations," workers who've tested positive for COVID-19 may be asked to come into work whether they're symptomatic or asymptomatic.” Nurses expressed concern over this policy, as they could risk infecting vulnerable patients should it become a reality. "It just goes against everything that we do as nurses," says one nurse at The Ottawa Hospital, who CBC agreed not to name because of their concern their job could be at risk if they speak publicly. "Our whole job is to protect the public and we don't get to do that anymore ... we can't safely take care of patients. We're just going to show up to work and it's like roulette." ONA Bargaining Unit President Rachel Muir says she already knows of a handful of nurses who are working under work self-isolation because of exposure to COVID-19. "Work self-isolation is a bad Band-Aid solution to a critical situation that we should never have been in if people have listened to us," says Muir. Although no grievances have been filed about work self-isolation, Muir says the issue has been on her radar. She's worried about the impact working while sick will have on nurses. "Personally, I don't like it. I don't like the fact that we've come to this point, and it all circles back to the fact that we are so chronically short-staffed," she says. "We're in trouble."
  • The Kingston Whig-Standard (January 8, 2022) reports that Ontario Premier Doug Ford has loudly celebrated the work of the "health-care heroes" who have been on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, but health-care workers are calling for the Ford government to back up the rhetoric with meaningful action to support them, as hospitals across the province, including Kingston Health Sciences Centre, face severe staffing shortages. The Ontario Nurses' Association - the union representing Ontario health-care workers - the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, along with hundreds of doctors and unions are calling for the province to repeal Bill 124 in the face of this crisis. Kingston health-care workers are feeling the same strain as their colleagues across Ontario. KHSC is chronically understaffed, with many working 16-hour days, taking on higher workloads and giving up vacation days, all without increased compensation. Cathryn Hoy, president of the ONA, says retirement and burnout are important factors in the current crisis, and that staffing shortages predate the pandemic. "All hospitals in the province have been short for many, many years pre-pandemic. So the pandemic not only enhanced it, but added to it, because we have a lot of RNs that chose to retire, we have new graduates who - because they did not receive the proper clinical training in the last two years - have left, and now our nurses are not getting vacation days and lieu time, which adds to the burnout rate…when you have the pandemic on top of it - it's a disaster," Hoy says. Initially, many health-care workers were enthusiastic to help in any way possible in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "With the pandemic, we had a lot of nurses who were picking up overtime to help support their units - everyone was all hands on deck. The staff were asked to cancel their vacation willingly, to support the units back in 2020, which a lot of them did. They retracted their vacation, they came into work. And a lot of times they were reassigned to other units to help support them when they were running low.” Today, she says, there is a twofold crisis as patients who delayed seeking care are now entering the hospital in worse condition, meaning nurses are dealing with just as many COVID-19 cases and an influx of complex, acute cases that require more attention. The report also notes that for health-care workers who test positive for COVID-19, there is limited access to paid sick leave, as the province guarantees only three consecutive days of paid sick leave per year. It is in this context of exhaustion and burnout that Bill 124 is so offensive to Hoy and other health-care workers. "That bill was rolled out under the premise that it was to protect health care. And I think that right off the bat (it) was a slap in the face to nurses because when it was rolled in under that guise, it made the public believe that this was something that was good, that was going to sustain their healthcare system, and in the end what it is doing is further crippling it," Hoy says. "I think some of the public thinks that, you know, nurses are complaining about Bill 124, and they (just) want a raise. This isn't about that. It's about respect, because we need retention of our nurses. We need them because we are in a severe crisis right now."
  • ONA President Cathryn Hoy has written an opinion column about the abuse of Code Orange (Toronto Star, January 7, 2022). She writes that a Code Orange is very rare, typically called when there is an unforeseen disaster. But the nursing shortage is not new, nor is it unforeseen. Recently, several hospitals have called a Code Orange due to nursing and staffing shortages. This is an absolute abuse of the Code Orange system. The nursing shortage is a long-standing issue that employers and governments have willingly ignored for years. “Despite the evidence, they have failed to take any substantial action to correct the shortages of registered nurses, nurse practitioners or registered practical nurses to ensure appropriate care is possible,” Hoy writes. “Ontario is short more than 22,000 registered nurses; the province, shamefully, has had the worst RN-to-population ratio in the country for many years running. This is a complete disgrace.” Hoy adds that the Ford government passed Bill 124, which caps nurses’ and health-care professionals’ wages and benefits at a maximum of one per cent in each of three years. “For many, the wage cap and its disrespect, combined with the trauma of caring for record numbers of patients during the pandemic, has driven nurses away from the profession. Nurses have personally told ONA that they cannot take this disrespect any more from the government or their employers.” It took a nasty global pandemic with virtually no end in sight for stakeholders to finally pay attention to the nursing crisis. She urges the Ford government to immediately repeal Bill 124 and show nurses respect. Hoy concludes that, “There was nothing immediate or unforeseen about Ontario’s nursing shortage. Normalizing nursing and staffing shortages by using a Code Orange is an abuse and is simply wrong.”

Government Updates Header

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

Long-Term Care Sector Updates

Documents related to "Enhanced Measures for Long-Term Care Homes" guidance - December 2021:

MOH Coronavirus Situation Reports

January 13, 2022: MOH Coronavirus Situation Report #594

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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