Ontario Nurses Devastated by Denial of Appeal of SARS Decision

TORONTO, Dec. 17 /CNW/ - Registered nurses in Ontario are devastated today to learn that the Supreme Court of Canada has denied an appeal of an earlier legal decision regarding responsibility for keeping nurses safe during the SARS outbreak.

The Supreme Court today denied the appeal by the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) of an earlier decision to dismiss an action filed on behalf of 53 nurses who contracted SARS while caring for infected patients in 2003. The Ontario Court of Appeal had ruled that the province of Ontario owed no "private law duty of care" to registered nurses during SARS, leaving them without a monetary remedy to hold governments accountable in court.

ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN, says the loss is another blow to a profession that continues to suffer position cuts, heavier workloads and other challenges while simply trying to provide quality care to their patients.

"The courts have sent the message to front-line registered nurses who were infected with SARS that their health is unimportant - they seem to be considered expendable," says Haslam-Stroud. "The decision means that government - which funds health care - hasn't been held accountable through the courts to ensure that RNs had safe working conditions and safe equipment during SARS. It's mind-boggling."

ONA has worked for years within the existing workplace safety laws to ensure that RNs have safe working conditions and safe equipment, notes Haslam-Stroud. She vows that the union will continue to do so through every avenue available, which it has successfully done during the H1N1 pandemic. But the lack of accountability during SARS has sent a chill through the profession.

"Despite all the lessons that we learned from SARS, front-line nurses still encountered difficulties accessing protective equipment during the H1N1 pandemic," she says. "ONA will have to continue to push for safe conditions for its members. We are on the front lines and we want to provide quality patient care. ONA will have to be ever vigilant in ensuring that our members are properly armed with information and protective equipment in cases where nurses' safety isn't a priority."

The Ontario Nurses' Association 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, Cell: (416) 926-8240

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