COVID-19 Updates

July 30, 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.

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.

Town Halls

ONA held telephone town halls for members on Monday, July 13 at two times, from 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. EST, to discuss emerging information related to Bill 195. Listen to the 5:30 p.m. session here. Listen to the 7:30 p.m. session here.

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

  • The Toronto Star (July 29, 2020) reports that the Ford government’s commission on COVID-19 and long-term care can “hold hearings in private, keep documents confidential and does not have to issue recommendations for improvements.” Critics say the commission is shaping up to be a “secretive ‘backroom’ effort that will fail to shed light on why the provincial government didn’t take more serious action sooner to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus.” Ontario, nursing home residents with COVID-19 had an almost one-in-three chance of dying: 1,844 of 5,887 residents who caught the virus as it spread rapidly in the close confines of long-term care died lives. Eight staff also died. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says many solutions to problems posed by the COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes are already known. Unions representing health-care workers in long-term care were flagging problems like a lack of masks and staff being allowed to work in more than one facility before the government took action on those fronts. ONA President Vicki McKenna adds that, “We are disheartened that possible recommendations the commission makes will be non-binding and that it will not be able to establish civil or criminal liability.”
  • An opinion column (North Grenville Times, July 29, 2020) points out that the Ford government has become the target of “sharp condemnation” for passing Bill 195. While Ford has been keen to praise front-line workers for their self-sacrifice in public, inside the legislature he has given his government the power to continue the emergency measures imposed due to COVID-19 for years, without having to have it approved by the Legislative Assembly. ONA called it a “dark day” for the province’s RNs and health-care professionals. President Vicki McKenna says: “This government has bypassed democratic process and rammed through Bills 195 and 197. Bill 195, the creatively named Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19 Act), provides extensive powers to override collective agreements and take away the rights of our nurses and health-care professionals who have been working so hard to provide care during the pandemic.”
  • A column in the Kenora Miner & News (July 30, 2020) says it appears that Doug Ford has forgotten that he’s supposed to be “for the people.” Ontario’s front-line workers who are the “province’s most vital soldiers in the battle against COVID-19 have been bamboozled by Queen’s Park.” The government has passed Bill 195, and health-care workers have protested the bill at Lake of the Woods District Hospital. The bill allows Doug Ford to “essentially bypass the Queen’s Park legislature to extend emergency orders…for two years through sweeping powers that override many aspects of the government’s functions and longstanding legislation.” Ford is escaping accountability, and this legislation is a power grab. The Ontario Nurses’ Association says it was a “dark day” for health-care professionals when the bill was passed. The column says the bill “effectively slaps our health-care workers, who have worked tirelessly and put themselves at risk every single day since the start of this pandemic, in the face.”
  • Nurses have protested in front of MPP Lorne Coe’s Whitby office, speaking out against legislation they say tramples on their labour rights (Whitby This Week, July 28, 2020). The ONA members say bills 124 and 195 do more than limit their wage increases to just one per cent annually and extend the premier’s ability to govern under a state of emergency. Bill 124, says Amy Prentice, RN, is “a violation of our rights to free and fair collective bargaining.” Over the past decade, she points out, nurses have seen a 4.5-per-cent pay cut when measured against the cost of living. Shelly Ormsby, RN, hopes that the public will “stand behind us.” ONA Vice-President D.J. Sanderson says the nurses are “trying to raise public awareness. There are a lot of people who have been called heroes but who haven’t been treated as such. We’re not looking for anything special, we’re just looking for some fairness, the rights that everyone enjoys.”
  • ONA President Vicki McKenna has mourned the Ford government’s passage of both Bill 195 and Bill 197, which amended dozens of pieces of legislation, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (Lawyers Daily, July 23, 2020). She says Bill 195 “provides extensive powers to override collective agreements and take away the rights of our nurses and health-care professionals who have been working so hard to provide care during the pandemic.” Bill 197, she says, “does not appear to have much to do with COVID-19 economic recovery. Instead, it allows health and safety measures and environmental protections to be watered down.”
  • Nurses and truckers are among those who report being denied medical services during COVID-19 (CBC News, July 23, 2020). While ONA President Vicki McKenna says she has not heard directly from nurses, she notes that “nurses…have been under incredible stress over the last number of weeks…They deserve services as well – and certainly their families.” There have been reports of nurses and truckers being denied massage, chiropractic treatments and other services when – during the screening process – their professions were revealed.
  • The Ontario Nurses’ Association says it’s a “dark day” for the province’s nurses and health-care workers as the Ford government has passed Bills 195 and 197 (Newswire.ca, July 21, 2020). "This government has bypassed democratic process and rammed through Bills 195 and 197. Bill 195, the creatively named Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19 Act)," says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN, "provides extensive powers to override collective agreements and take away the rights of our nurses and health-care professionals, who have been working so hard to provide care during the pandemic." ONA members are holding rallies at local MPPs’ constituency offices to call for the bill to be repealed.

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:

July 29, 2020: MOH Coronavirus Situation Report #186

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

Guidance for the Health Sector

For a more guidance information, visit the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 guidance page for the health sector. Click here to view these guidance documents in French.

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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