Ontario Nurses' Association Appeals SARS Lawsuit Ruling: ONA says government must be accountable for nurses' safety

    TORONTO, Aug. 6 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) has applied
to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal the decision of the Ontario
Court of Appeal that dismissed an action on behalf of 53 nurses who contracted
SARS while caring for SARS patients in 2003.
    The May 7th decision by the Court of Appeal said that the province of
Ontario owes no private duty of care to the province's front-line registered
nurses. This ruling leaves RNs at risk as they care for patients during the
current H1N1 flu pandemic and in other outbreaks of potentially deadly
diseases, such as SARS.
    The nurses allege that the province assumed responsibility for their
health and safety when it issued detailed directives to health-care workers
advising them what precautionary measures to take - and those measures proved
to be inadequate. Nurse Tecla Lin died as a result of her contact with SARS.
The other nurses all contracted SARS and while some have recovered
sufficiently to return to work, many others continue to struggle with
lingering symptoms, including constant fatigue and respiratory illness.
    ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, notes that a post-SARS
investigation and report, issued by the late-Justice Archie Campbell, included
significant findings regarding the lack of worker health and safety in our
health-care facilities and the implications for those on the front lines.
    "Justice Campbell's findings show that he was particularly attuned to the
fact that another outbreak was likely, and now it has come to pass with the
declaration of a global flu pandemic," said Haslam-Stroud. "We know that some
hospitals do not have adequate equipment, that the virus is showing resistance
to Tamiflu, that inspectors have contracted the virus after conducting an
inspection in Alberta without properly fitted N95 respirators and we know that
our members are extremely concerned about their own safety at work."
    She also notes that ONA has been responding to its members' concerns
about some hospitals, long-term care facilities and public health units being
unprepared for the flu pandemic. They are seeing inadequate patient screening
for flu symptoms, insufficient supplies of protective equipment, the failure
of employers to supply respirators, gowns, gloves and eye protection, failure
to properly fit-test nurses for N95 respirators, a lack of communication and
incomplete or absent pandemic plans.
    "ONA is all too aware that once again, we are faced with a potentially
deadly outbreak and many facilities are unprepared and repeating the mistakes
of SARS," says Haslam-Stroud. "We continue to believe that the provincial
government is ultimately responsible for our members' safety as we care for
patients, and that the government owes a private law duty of care to these
dedicated professionals."
    The applicants in this appeal consist of 53 RNs and their family members
- including the estate of one RN who died of SARS - who contracted the disease
while caring for patients. ONA is the union representing 54,000 registered
nurses and allied health professionals and more than 10,000 nursing students
providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the
community, clinics and industry. ONA is celebrating 35 years of nursing
advocacy - a proud past, a powerful future.

For further information:

For further information: Ontario Nurses' Association, Sheree Bond, (416)
964-8833, ext. 2430, Cellular: (416) 986-8240

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