Hamilton Front-Line Nurses Celebrate Ruling: Arbitrator's Decision Regarding Access to Nurses' Medical Information Sets Precedent

    TORONTO, Oct. 23 /CNW/ - Front-line registered nurses at Hamilton Health
Sciences are very pleased following a ruling that supported their claim that
they'd been forced to release excessive private personal medical information
to a private company handling sick claims for their employer.
    An arbitrator has ruled that Hamilton Health Sciences - and the private
company contracted to handle nurses' sick claims - required excessive personal
information from nurses. The ruling upheld the right to privacy of the nurses,
members of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA).
    "Our members have been harassed and their privacy invaded for taking sick
time," says Ontario Nurses' Association President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN.
"This ruling sets a precedent for the province that sends the message that
personal medical information is not to be shared without very good reason."
    Hamilton Health Sciences has been using the firm Cowan Wright Beauchamp
to handle its sick time claims for more than two years. ONA members have been
complaining that a consent form they were forced to sign gave the company the
right to too much access to their current medical condition and their medical
history, their medications and dosages, referrals and other information.
    "These forms and this system have created a very negative culture for
Hamilton Health Sciences nurses," says ONA Local 70 bargaining unit president
Pat MacDonald. "As registered nurses, we suffer from workplace injuries and
illness due to the nature of our jobs, and the added stress of a private firm
knowing more than it is entitled to about our medical history doesn't help
morale or benefit our employer."
    Haslam-Stroud adds that the nursing shortage has increased the physical
demands on nurses as they cope with heavier workloads, stress, burnout and
    "Our members want to be by their patients' bedsides and not home with an
illness or injury," says Haslam-Stroud. "But a nurse knows when she is too ill
to care for patients, and it's a difficult decision for front-line nurses to
leave their colleagues even more short staffed. Knowing that a private firm
can gather personal information has violated our members' privacy. This
decision forces the hospital and its private firm to respect the right to
privacy of our nurses."

    ONA is the union representing 53,000 front-line registered nurses and
allied health professionals working in Ontario hospitals, long-term care
facilities, public health, the community and industry.

For further information:

For further information: Sheree Bond, ONA, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430;
Melanie Levenson, ONA, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369

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