Ontario Nurses’ Association Files Judicial Review, Seeks Urgent Changes to Protect Nurses

February 25, 2021

TORONTOFebruary 25, 2021  - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) has filed an urgent judicial review application to seek changes to directives to recognize and protect against the grave risks to health-care workers from COVID-19 – including aerosol and asymptomatic transmission.

"The current public health directives from Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, are not enough to protect against a novel respiratory virus like COVID-19," says ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. "Ontario's directives do not respect the precautionary principle. Instead, the directives are based on outdated science."

McKenna notes that the infection rates in health-care workers have soared throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Current directives only recognize that COVID-19 is spread through close contact and droplets, and ONA is asking that the Superior Court order Dr. David Williams to amend the directives to explicitly recognize aerosol and asymptomatic transmission.

"Other public health agencies have recognized aerosol transmission," says McKenna, "but Ontario has yet to update its directives to reflect this. Our health-care workers can encounter patients who can be infectious, even before they show symptoms. We must adjust those directives – there is ample scientific evidence of both aerosol and asymptomatic transmission.

"The failure of the Chief Medical Officer of Health to amend the directives, we believe, violates his legal duty under the Health Protection and Promotion Act," says McKenna. "Orders must be consistent with the precautionary principle, which requires that health-care workers have access to airborne precautions, including N95 respirators, when dealing with known or uncertain risks of transmission."

ONA is seeking changes to directives to require that health-care facilities provide N95 respirators and that health-care workers wear them to protect against infection in situations where there is a risk of exposure or in higher-risk health-care environments, including long-term care facilities, emergency departments, intensive care units, COVID units, COVID-19 testing sites, and other settings.

ONA notes that to date, the province has seen close to 19,000 health-care workers infected – a far higher incidence than the general population. At least 11 health-care workers have died, including one registered nurse.

ONA is the union representing more than 68,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as more than 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.


For more information: 

Sheree Bond (416) 986-8240 (cell) shereeb@ona.org