Nurses in Toronto ask for more pay and better working conditions during COVID-19
Nearly 90,000 people have now signed a petition calling upon government officials to give nurses in Ontario a "significant raise" as they risk their lives to fight COVID-19 during a global pandemic.
"Nurses are at the frontline caring for those with COVID-19," reads the petition addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and provincial Health Minister Christine Elliot.
"Sign this petition so Doug Ford will significantly increase the pay of nurses, who are the backbone of the healthcare profession. Show your support during this trying time."
Nurses are at the frontline of Ontario’s #COVID-19 outbreak. They expose themselves to significant risk every day in order to save the lives of sick Ontarians. This petition is calling for a pay increase for nurses working during the pandemic. https://t.co/PNyCEm1vw3— Change.org Canada (@CdnChange) March 18, 2020
Created two weeks ago by someone using the alias "Concerned Nurse," the petition asks for a pay increase of "more than 10 per cent" for frontline nurses, who are literally risking their lives right now as the 2019 novel coronavirus spreads.
To wit: Healthcare workers are currently thought to make up roughly 10 per cent of all COVID-19 patients in Ontario. Many continue to work without adequate resources due to a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and are living away from their loved ones for fear of infecting family members.
And yet, nurses have been unable to get a pay bump amid the global pandemic outbreak.
This is because they're considered public sector workers, unlike employees of Walmart, Amazon, Metro, Loblaws, Domino's and a whole host of other businesses that have increased staff wages during this unprecedented situation.
Ontario nurses have had their real pay *decreased* every year for over a decade due to below-inflation increases. Now they are being required to treat potentially infectious patients without the protection required by good medical practice. Shameful. #onpoli https://t.co/BX8ilxmi2b— Mark Hayes 🇨🇦 (@HayeseLaw) March 30, 2020
"The nurses union is trying to work out a deal with the Ontario hospitals to improve work conditions and raise the hourly for nurses," reads the petition. "However, due to Bill 124 the union is limited and their efforts are being blocked."
The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA), which represents 68,000 registered nurses and healthcare professionals across the province has indeed been facing challenges in its collective bargaining activities due to Doug Ford's cap on public sector wages (legislation for which passed in November of 2019).
ONA has not endorsed or publicly supported the change.org wage petition, though it has been calling for enhanced safety measures for its members since the outbreak began.
.@ontarionurses continue their fight for improved safety protocols. Take action to advocate for proper Personal Protective Equipment for you and your colleagues. Protect Ontario's #Nurses #HealthCareWorkers Take action at https://t.co/XZIH2sNTr3 pic.twitter.com/fy6XsZmaXf— Ont. Nurses' Association (@ontarionurses) March 19, 2020
The wages of nurses have yet to be addressed, but the government did respond to demands for better working conditions on Monday with clear guidelines for the use of PPE within hospitals.
"During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that the appropriate steps are taken to protect the health and safety of all health care workers, patients and the public in Ontario," reads a joint statement from Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, the ONA and the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
"It is also important to ensure that appropriate health and safety measures, including administrative and engineering controls and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are utilized, while also preserving supplies of specialized equipment for when they are required to safely provide care."
In that vein, the group established such rules as "all health care workers who are within two metres of suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients shall have access to appropriate PPE."
Ontario thanks all the health care professionals, first responders and essential workers keeping our province safe during the #COVID19 emergency.— Ontario Government (@ONgov) April 1, 2020
We are always grateful for your tireless work, but even more so in this difficult time. #OntarioSpirit #TogetherWeCanDoIt pic.twitter.com/gsp93e3xVp
"At minimum, contact and droplet precautions must be used by health care workers for all interactions with suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients," reads one of the orders. "Contact and droplet precautions include gloves, face shields or goggles, gowns, and surgical/procedure masks."
ONA applauded the measures, writing in a release on its website that the statement "provides much-needed clarity on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in hospital settings while managing the current COVID-19 pandemic."
"We have spoken out, loud and clear, at government tables that protecting the health and safety of nurses is paramount and we welcome these new measures for the hospital sector," said ONA President Vicki McKenna of the new guidelines.
"This enables nurses to use the precautionary principle to prevent exposure to and transmission of COVID-19, something that ONA has been advocating for from the start."
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