North Bay & District Hospital Sentenced Today: Front-Line Nurses Hope Conviction Will Lead to Improved Safety

    TORONTO, June 14 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) believes
today's sentencing of North Bay and District Hospital is a wake-up call for
improved occupational health and safety practices in all provincial hospitals.
    Ontario Court of Justice Judge J.G. Lebel imposed a $25,000 fine on North
Bay and District Hospital today stemming from malfunctioning and improperly
installed anesthetic gas equipment that led to a nitrous oxide leak. The judge
noted that this case and the resulting charges were related to a single day
only, but that there was no doubt that problems with the equipment had been
long-term, and said that it was good luck, not good management that patients
and staff were not injured. At the very least, the judge said, the conduct of
this employer was negligent.
    "Front-line nurses are like the canaries in the coal mine, especially in
this case," says ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "Our nurses have been
sounding the alarm about unsafe equipment, unsafe occupational health and
safety practices and risk to patients' health and their own safety. Judge
Lebel's comments speak volumes about just how cavalier an attitude North Bay
and District Hospital has regarding workplace safety."
    Haslam-Stroud notes that the final report of the SARS commission noted
that healthcare lacks a culture of safety - and that hospitals are as
dangerous a workplace as mines or construction sites. The late Justice
Archie Campbell called for hospitals to use the "precautionary principle" - to
err on the side of caution - to keep healthcare workers and patients safe.
    "ONA believes that Judge Lebel understands the importance of improving
workplace health and safety practices in this province, and especially in
North Bay," says Haslam-Stroud. "While the fine imposed was not substantial,
he says he wants to send the message that this kind of behavior on the part of
employers will not be tolerated. We certainly hope this has made an impression
on North Bay and District Hospital management - ONA will be watching and
acting to ensure our nurses are safer in future than they have been in the

    ONA is the union representing 53,000 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: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240; Melanie Levenson, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2369

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