Ontario Joins Other Nurses' Unions in Calling for a Halt to Plans to
Eliminate RNs from Blood Donor Screening

TORONTO, Nov. 18 /CNW/ - Noting that there is no evidence to support claims that using unskilled, unregulated workers to screen blood donors will not jeopardize the safety of Canada's blood supply, the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) and other Canadian nurses' unions are calling for a halt to plans to eliminate nurses from blood donor screening.

In a letter sent this week to federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq, the nurses' unions detailed objections to the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) proposal to eliminate nurses from direct donor screening.

"We know from the Krever Commission that the drive for cost-effectiveness and cost-efficiency can jeopardize blood safety," said ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "One of the most critical elements to ensuring a safe blood supply is the careful screening and assessment of all potential blood donors. This country does need not to experience another tainted blood scandal and should have learned its lessons the last time. There is no excuse for letting safe screening lapse and allowing another 1,000 Canadians to be infected with HIV or Hepatitis because donors weren't properly screened."

In the post-tainted blood scandal report, the Krever Commission report noted that, "the screening of potential donors has become even more expensive and intrusive. Careful screening is essential to maintain a safe blood supply and it must continue."

Other objections to the elimination of nurses from direct donor screening are based on research that found that:

    
      -  registered nurses and/or doctors are routinely used to screen
         potential blood doors, contrary to claims by CBS that they are not;
      -  there is no evidence that the use of less-skilled, unregulated
         workers would not jeopardize the blood supply or donor health;
      -  employers such as Canadian Blood Services could address retention
         and recruitment problems through improving the quality of the
         workplace.
    

CBS says the nursing shortage has resulted in difficulties recruiting and retaining skilled registered nurses to screen donors in its clinics. Haslam-Stroud says it's counter-intuitive to respond to the nursing shortage by eliminating more nurses from its clinics.

"On behalf of Canadian 158,000 nurses, our unions have asked Health Canada to reject the Canadian Blood Services proposal to replace nurses with unregulated, less-skilled workers," says Linda Silas, RN, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. "The proposal to replace nurses is a step in the wrong direction."

ONA is the union representing 55,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals and more than 12,000 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: For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2430, cell: (416) 986-8240; Melanie Levenson, (416) 964-8833, ext. 2369

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Ontario Nurses' Association

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