Thursday, June 12, 2003

US Nurses Take Note: Coming to a Hospital Near You?

Two articles from Toronto about the failure of hospitals to provide proper safety equipment and procedures to nurses exposed to patients with SARS.

Ontario's Labour Ministry has ordered two hospitals to improve their SARS equipment, training and other standards after an investigation found they violated the province's workplace health and safety act.

For front-line health-care workers like nurses, the ministry's findings add fuel and credence to their complaints that many workers are working under potentially dangerous and unstable conditions.

And unions representing health-care providers said the ministry orders may just be the beginning of a slew of crackdowns that the government has to follow through on to protect the health of workers.

"We have to find better ways of providing the protective equipment that's required for utmost safety of our workers," said Adeline Falk-Rafael, president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario.

"The complaints I've heard most are that the masks they're supposed to wear to protect them (from SARS germs) aren't fitting, and our advice has been to them not to work in SARS units and with patients if they don't fit properly."
And one more that talks about union action:
At least two nurses at a hospital in Newmarket weren't in full protective gear during a highly contagious intubation, a nurses' union spokeswoman said today as Ontario announced a review of how the province has handled SARS....

Barb Wahl, president of the nurses' association, said although nurses have a duty to work where a hospital assigns them, they can refuse to comply under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. One nurse at North York General Hospital went home with full pay last weekend after refusing to wear a mask that didn't fit her properly, added Wahl.

Wahl said that association demands that all masks be tested for their effectiveness in keeping SARS germs at bay haven't been met. The masks of 25 nurses at St. Michael's Hospital — one of the four hospitals designated to handle the bulk of SARS cases in the Toronto area — were tested twice in the past week, and none passed the so-called "fit test," Wahl said.