COVID-19 Updates

June 2, 2020

ONA_HasYourBackPoster_20200408ONA_HeroesLookLikeThis_20200408ONA is closely monitoring this situation, and has initiated a special task force to monitor and respond to the threat of the emerging 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.

We are posting any COVID-19 discounts and promotional offers for health-care workers to our main Discounts page. Click here to view.

Click here for a message from ONA President Vicki McKenna.

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

Reusing Masks

We are aware that Ontario Health has advised employers to collect used N95 and surgical masks and to store these in biohazard bags for potential reprocessing. Given the global shortage of PPE, there is emerging evidence that says there maybe various methods of retaining, sterilizing, reprocessing and reusing PPE, including N95 respirators. Any health-care worker, who is placing an N95 into a container, for potential reuse, should be careful not to be contaminated. At this time, there is no certainty regarding scientific evidence that supports reusing N95 masks. We have advised government that, until there is clear evidence and science on safety, ONA will not consider these options without clear scientific evidence that these masks meet the standards for safe use in health-care settings.

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.

Pandemic Pay

The Ontario government launched a new website on pandemic pay. Click here to learn more.

ONA Telephone Town Halls

Telephone Town Halls: Wednesday, May 20, 2020

ONA held telephone town halls for members on Wednesday, May 20 at two times, from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. EST (for Regions 1, 2 and 5) and from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST (for Regions 3, and 4). These town halls were held to discuss emerging information related to COVID-19.

Listen to the 5:30 p.m. session here. Listen to the 7:30 p.m. session here.

ONA News and Media

ONA in the News

  • ONA says issues in long-term care extend far beyond those highlighted in a scathing military report, adding that urgent action is needed to improve conditions across Ontario (CBC, May 26, 2020). Premier Doug Ford says the province launched an investigation, that could lead to criminal charges against five facilities, after the military released a report alleging unhygienic and dangerous behaviors that may have contributed to COVID-19 outbreaks. "We have been elevating our concerns about a growing number of long-term care homes for some time now," says ONA President Vicki McKenna. "We are grateful that the report from the military and the involvement of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally resulted in attention being paid to deficiencies in these homes." McKenna says recommendations from previous long-term care investigations, including calls for better staffing, funding and training, have yet to be fully implemented.
  • A new case of COVID-19 has been reported in an ongoing outbreak at Hamilton General Hospital (CBC, May 26, 2020). There are now seven confirmed cases among staff working in the hospital’s COVID-19 in-patient unit, including four RNs. “ONA urges this employer to take this outbreak very seriously and ensure that all health-care workers who were potentially exposed be tested as soon as possible," ONA President Vicki McKenna wrote in a statement to CBC News. "There is potential for a large number of staff and patients to be infected. Testing and contact tracing is vital at this time. ONA expects this employer to take the appropriate action immediately to prevent further spread of infection and ensure all workers and their patients are safe." The cause of the outbreak is still unclear as the hospital says it is confident that staff were “diligent and consistent in their use of PPE.”
  • Organizations across the province want to ensure the commission investigating Ontario's long-term care facilities is truly independent (inHalton.com, May 25, 2020). “This province has known for quite some time that this sector suffers from chronic underfunding, chronic understaffing, and that many of the for-profit corporations that operate these homes value profit over care. There has been a great deal of complacency around fixing the system," says ONA President Vicki McKenna, adding that not all Commissions are created equal. "We expect to see a full public inquiry that is truly independent. We need to get to the bottom of what led to the rampant devastation of residents and health-care workers in long-term care homes across the province.”
  • Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates says the province needs to provide more PPE for health-care workers (The Niagara Falls Review, May 22, 2020). Gates says PSWs and custodians from his riding are on ventilators in intensive care units “because they weren’t provided proper PPE” adding that 17 per cent of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases are health-care workers. ONA President Vicki McKenna says PPE is “certainly a concern.” “I know some areas are struggling to make sure they've got what they need for the people that they're caring for and also the health-care workers, to protect them because if the health-care workers are protected, so are the people that they're caring for."
  • ONA President Vicki McKenna says it’s “déjà vu all over again” for Ontario’s nurses, as infectious disease specialists seek to ignore the precautionary principal with assertions that COVID-19 is spread “almost exclusively” by droplets (Toronto Star and Brampton Guardian, May 16, 2020). “During SARS, nurses were repeatedly assured by a group of infection control specialists that SARS was spread by droplet transmission and that N95 respirators were unnecessary. Only later did some of these infectious disease specialists admit that the virus was airborne, and only later did they reverse their stance on proper protective equipment. That was far too late for many who had unnecessarily been infected… Fast forward 17 years and we are back to those dark days. Although there is considerable discussion regarding how COVID-19 is transmitted that points to droplet transmission, there is an equal amount of literature that shows evidence of aerosol transmission.”
  • Brian Beattie, a registered nurse working at Kensington Village, has died of COVID-19 (Toronto Star, May 12, 2020). “I am devastated at the loss of Brian, who was a dedicated RN,” says ONA President Vicki McKenna. “ONA sends our deepest condolences to Brian’s family, friends and his colleagues. This is a tragedy for all of us. Brian was a well-liked and respected registered nurse. He was the definition of dedication, and he considered his colleagues and residents to be his ‘other family.’ He loved the work he did, and he also advocated for his colleagues to have personal protective equipment to keep both them and the residents safe. He will be deeply missed by his colleagues and the residents he cared for.”
  • An RN working at a London long-term care home is the first RN in Ontario to die of COVID-19 (London Free Press, May 13, 2020). Brian Beattie worked at Kensington Village, where an outbreak was declared on April 3.  ONA says the Ministry of Labour has been called to investigate Beattie’s death.
  • Brian Beattie is the first RN to die of COVID-19 in Ontario (CBC News, May 12, 2020). ONA President Vicki McKenna said she is “devastated” by the loss of the well-liked and respected registered nurse.
  • ONA is providing support to the colleagues of Brian Beattie, an Ontario RN who died of COVID-19 (Global News, May 12, 2020). “This is Nursing Week, a time in which we traditionally celebrate the profession… Instead, we are mourning the loss of a caring and skilled registered nurse,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna.

Government Information and Resources

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

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

Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) COVID-19 Directives:

MOH Coronavirus Situation Reports:

June 1, 2020: MOH Coronavirus Situation Report #128

Click here to view previous MOH Coronavirus Situation Reports.

COVID-19 Command Table Updates:

May 29, 2020: Update on COVID-19 Preparations and Actions

COVID-19: Modelling and Potential Scenarios (April 20, 2020)

Click here to view previous Command Table Updates.

COVID-19 Collaboration Table Summaries:

April 2, 2020: Update on COVID-19 Preparations and Actions

March 19, 2020: Update on COVID-19 Preparations and Actions

Government Resources

  • 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

News and Resources for Health-Care Professionals

  • National Nurses United created an online memorial to honour nurses around the world who have died during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Click here for an update from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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