Registered Nurses and Registered Respiratory Therapists Call on Minister of Health to Intervene and Stop Changes to Southlake’s Critical Care Nursing Model

August 31, 2021

TORONTO, ON., August 31, 2021: Registered nurses (RNs) and registered respiratory therapists (RRTs) rallied outside of Minister of Health Christine Elliott’s office today, again requesting to meet with the Minister and delivering postcards that call for an immediate end to Southlake Regional Health Centre’s plan to introduce an unsafe model of care to its intensive care unit.

The RNs and RRTs have made requests to meet with the Minister to make their case; they have not yet received confirmation of such a meeting. The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) members from Southlake’s three critical care units delivered the postcards, signed by 95 per cent of the workers, They say that the ‘team-based nursing care’ model to support the hiring of RNs into a ‘Pre-Sponsorship ICU Program,’ without providing them with the full critical care education and training they need prior to working in the ICU, is unsafe for patients and must be stopped.

“As highly regulated and skilled front-line RNs and RRTs, our members understand the risks to both safe patient care and to their own licences to practice that this new model of care subjects them to,” notes ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “Being a patient advocate is a central part of their role, and they take it seriously. Our members have tried to work with Southlake’s CEO, have requested meetings with the hospital board and with the Minister of Health to explain the risks and offer solutions, and are now formally asking the Minister to step in to prevent this wrongheaded plan from being implemented.”

McKenna notes that in addition to risking patient safety, the plan has already impacted retention of the RNs and RRTs working in the ICU. “It’s no secret that the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened the severe critical care nursing shortage that existed before the pandemic,” says McKenna. “It is vital that the Minister of Health listen to our members’ to protect their patients from harm and prevent further staff from leaving. Having been met with deaf ears and a refusal to listen to these care delivery experts, our members have taken the next step. I sincerely hope Minister Elliott is concerned enough about patient safety and the quality of critical care being provided in her own community to listen and take action to prevent harm to residents.”

The model of care Southlake plans to implement in the Intensive Care Unit was piloted in Ontario years ago and proved to be detrimental to safe patient care and was reversed. Critical care nurses and health-care professionals must obtain considerable additional training and education in order to provide the specialized care seriously ill and unstable patients in ICUs require.

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)