Flu Prevention is More than a Shot in the Arm: Ontario Nurses' Association Launches Ad Campaign

LONDON, ON, Dec. 10, 2013 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) has launched a new ad campaign in London and St. Thomas that calls for an end to the stigmatization of nurses who choose not to have a flu vaccine. ONA is also calling for the provincial government to work collaboratively to develop a province-wide, comprehensive and truly effective policy to fight the spread of influenza.

ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, says that, "As registered nurses, we know that science shows that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies between just 40 and 60 per cent. Yet a handful of Ontario hospitals - including London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph's Health Care London and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital - are trying to coerce nurses into having a flu vaccine or be publicly stigmatized if they choose not to. We dedicate our lives to caring for our patients. Hospitals such as these, which are coercing our nurses, are doing a grave disservice to the community."

These three London hospitals are among only a handful of health agencies using these practices. ONA represents more than 500 Ontario health agencies in the province.

Radio ads about the issue are airing in London and the other communities using similar pressure tactics. Noting that it takes "more than a shot in the arm" to fight the flu, the ad notes that publicly shaming nurses won't keep patients safe from the flu and may provide a false sense of security for the community.

ONA believes that if hospitals are serious about preventing influenza from spreading, they must use evidence-based infection-control measures, effective isolation policies and screening procedures, adequate "surge capacity" protocols to ensure a safe number of nurses are working, provide appropriate personal protective equipment when needed, increase cleaning efforts, eliminate overcrowding, practice hand hygiene and include immunization options as part of an overall plan.

An audio file of the ad is available at http://www.ona.org/political_action/flu.html, as is a comprehensive influenza prevention and control plan that promotes a culture of safety and other information.

"As registered nurses, we are there on the front lines to ensure our patients receive the high-quality care they need," says Haslam-Stroud, "These pressure tactics show a total lack of respect for the knowledge and professionalism of London Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph's Health Care London and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital nurses. ONA is calling on the government to demand that these hospitals stop the coercion and stigmatization. We call on the government to work with nurses and other experts on a comprehensive, province-wide approach to infection control that protects patients and respects nurses, because our patients deserve no less."

ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.

SOURCE Ontario Nurses' Association

For further information:

Ontario Nurses' Association

Sheree Bond
(416) 964-1979 ext.2430; cell: (416) 986-8240; shereeb@ona.org

Melanie Levenson
(416) 964-1979 ext. 2369; melaniel@ona.org

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