McGuinty Government Puts Safety First For Nurses And Other Health Care Workers



    New Equipment Will Help Protect Workers From Deadly Diseases

    TORONTO, Aug. 23 /CNW/ - The McGuinty government is protecting Ontario's
nurses from potentially life-threatening diseases like SARS and Avian Flu by
purchasing 55 million N95 respirators and mandating the use of safety
engineered needles or needle-less systems in Ontario hospitals, Health and
Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman announced today.
    "By investing in better equipment, we are putting the lessons we learned
from SARS into action," said Smitherman. "These new respirators will help
provide the protection that nurses and other front line health care providers
deserve because their health and safety must be paramount when dealing with
infectious diseases."
    "Safe workplaces are a priority for this government," said Minister of
Labour Steve Peters. "Making safety engineered needles or needle-less systems
mandatory will help us reach our goal by creating safer work environments that
prevent health related injuries."
    "The Ontario Safety Association for Community and Healthcare (OSACH)
applauds Ministers' Smitherman and Peters for their collaborative leadership
to protect our caregivers by advancing safety first," said President and Chief
Executive Officer of the Ontario Safety Association for Community and
Healthcare Joseline Sikorski. "Providing our caregivers with safe equipment
and work environments are essential priorities in linking a culture of safety
with quality care"
    The government will purchase up to 55 million N95 respirators as part of
its 2007 Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic. N95 respirators are
designed to provide a higher level of respiratory protection for the wearer
when compared to surgical masks.
    A new regulation under the Occupational Health and Safety Act will make
safety engineered needles or needle-less systems mandatory in all hospitals as
of September 1, 2008. The government intends to mandate the use of safety
engineered needles or needle-less systems in long-term care homes, psychiatric
facilities, laboratories and specimen collection centres in 2009 and in other
health care workplaces (home care, doctor's offices, ambulances, etc.) in
2010.
    In his final report on SARS, Justice Campbell focused on the need to
protect the safety of the province's front line health care workers. As a
result, the province has adopted the "precautionary principle" in providing
personal protective equipment when faced with infectious disease outbreaks -
this means safety first and foremost for Ontario's health care workers. The
province has also appointed a new, permanent health and safety advisory
committee under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide practical
advice and recommendations to ensure health care workers are protected.
    This is just one more example of how, working together, Ontarians have
achieved results in making Ontario an employer of choice. Other initiatives
include:

    
    -  Purchased more than 19,000 bed lifts to literally save nurses' backs
    -  Launching the pains and strains campaign to help reduce ergonomic-
       related injuries, which account for 42 per cent of all lost-time
       injuries in Ontario
    -  Hiring 200 new health and safety inspectors to help achieve the
       government's goal of preventing 20,000 workplace injuries by 2008.
    

    Today's initiative is part of the McGuinty government's plan for
innovation in public health care, building a system that delivers on three
priorities - keeping Ontarians healthy, reducing wait times and providing
better access to doctors and nurses.

    This news release, along with other media materials, such as matte
stories and audio clips, on other subjects, are available on our website at:
http://www.health.gov.on.ca under the News Media section.
    For more information on achievements in health care, visit:
www.resultsontario.gov.on.ca.

    Disponible en français.



    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    
             IMPROVING WORKPLACE SAFETY FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS
    

    The McGuinty government's new plan to improve workplace safety will help
protect front-line health care workers against injuries from needles and an
influenza pandemic. The following outlines the three-year plan to advance
workplace safety in Ontario:

    Introducing Safety Engineered Needles and Needle-less Systems

    The government is using its regulatory authority under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act to make the use of safety engineered hollow-bore needles
or needle-less systems mandatory in all hospitals as of September 1, 2008.
    The government will consult with relevant stakeholders to introduce an
amendment to expand the requirements by 2009 for long-term care homes,
psychiatric facilities, laboratories and specimen collection centres, and by
2010 for other health care workplaces.
    Safety engineered needles help prevent front-line health care workers
from being punctured by a needle stick, which may contain blood-borne
diseases. This will improve the safety and quality of health care practices
throughout Ontario.
    This plan is part of the healthy work environment initiative of the
HealthForceOntario strategy.

    Stockpiling N95 Masks for a Pandemic

    The 2007 Ontario Health Plan for an Influenza Pandemic emphasizes the
need for healthcare workers to use N95 masks in the event of a pandemic. The
government is beginning to stockpile an estimated 55 million N95 masks to meet
the demand of a four-week period during a pandemic. Further funding through
2010 will help complete the stockpiling.
    Healthcare workers will be fit-tested on N95 masks to ensure proper
protection as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

    Disponible en français.

    
                             www.health.gov.on.ca
    





For further information:

For further information: David Spencer, Minister's Office, (416)
327-4320; A.G. Klei, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, (416) 314-6197;
Members of the general public: 1-866-532-3161

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Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

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