TORONTO, Jan. 9, 2007
– Ontario nurses today welcomed the release of the final report looking into the SARS outbreak. The recommendations, if fully implemented, will lead to a safer, stronger health-care system. But the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) also says that can only happen if RNs are protected, their voices are heard, and if there are enough of them on the front lines.
“We are pleased the report recommends establishing better communication with frontline staff and ensuring health-care workers are safe,” says RNAO immediate past-president Joan Lesmond. She says RNAO also welcomes Campbell’s recommendation that the ‘precautionary principle’ – taking the strongest precautions until evidence shows they are no longer needed – is adopted in any future outbreak.
Following the outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that killed 44 Ontarians, including two nurses and a doctor, RNAO called for a full public inquiry into SARS. Instead, in June 2003, the provincial government appointed Mr. Justice Archie Campbell to investigate the outbreaks. Lesmond says it’s crucial to ensure this report creates real change in Ontario’s health-care system.
“SARS is an experience that touched the lives of Ontarians deeply,” Lesmond says. “We have to make sure Justice Campbell’s report is not left to collect dust on a shelf.”
RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun says the report underscores the need to hear nurses’ expertise.
“Nurses are on the frontlines 24/7,” Grinspun says. “Nurses have the clinical expertise hospital administrators and politicians must listen to. We need to hear specific actions on what governments and employers are going to do to make sure nurses’ voices are heard, and their knowledge is fully integrated in clinical decision-making and policy directions.”
Lesmond welcomed recommendations that the Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care work together to share information and better protect health-care workers during outbreaks.
“If something like SARS happens again, nurses want to know they can count on a faster, more coordinated response to their concerns,” Lesmond says.
Grinspun says SARS exposed the gaps when there are not enough nurses working full time. “The over-reliance on part-time, casual and agency work failed the system and patients as nurses were justifiably directed to work in just one place,” she says. Grinspun praised the McGuinty government for committing to achieve the goal of 70 per cent of registered nurses working full time.
“The 61.6 per cent full-time employment RNs enjoy today is evidence of progress in the right direction. RNAO looks forward to seeing more progress on this front,” Grinspun adds.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.-30-