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Health care unions welcome significantly improved COVID-19 protections for 400,000 health care workers

October 5, 2020 - 12:00 AM

TORONTO – Today the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued Directive #5, which provides clear guidance that N-95 or superior protection masks, face shields and other equipment are to be provided to health care staff working on the front line in long-term care facilities or hospitals dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks, among other improvements.

“The updated standards in Directive #5 are the culmination of many hours of frank and open collaboration with the Ministry of Health. I’d like to sincerely thank the government for adopting these improved precautionary measures that put worker safety first. It is imperative that management and operators discharge the necessary PPE to meet their health and safety obligations in the workplace,” said Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare.

The enhanced standards directs that if a health care worker in a facility in outbreak comes in contact with a suspected, probable, or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a patient or resident where 2 metre distance cannot be assured, that health care worker can determine if a fit-tested N-95 respirator or approved equivalent or better protection is needed and if so must receive it.

“Our priority is the health and well-being of the women and men working in Ontario’s health care system and the people that they care for. The management of Ontario’s hospitals and long-term care facilities must meet these very basic requirements. We believe that these changes will significantly reduce the infection risk for health care workers and for the most vulnerable,” said Michael Hurley, President of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.

"By working together the participating unions have managed to achieve terms on a directive that in all honesty could save lives,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “The new Directive #5 is the culmination of frank and open collaboration with representatives of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the government. It is an example of what we can accomplish when government decision makers and unions work together on shared goals.”

“By protecting all nurses and health-care workers, no matter where that care is delivered, we protect all Ontarians. Working together with Ontario’s healthcare unions, ONA, OPSEU, CUPE-OCHU, SEIU and Unifor, and the provincial government, we have collectively improved Directive#5 so that now it helps achieve the proper health and safety protections and reinforces the responsibility of employers to ensure that protection is readily accessible. This benefits all Ontarians as we fight back during this pandemic,” said Vicki McKenna, RN, President of the Ontario Nurses’ Association.

“These improvements to Directive #5 will make our hospitals and long-term care homes significantly safer for our health care workers and for all Ontarians. I commend the government for listening to healthcare unions and putting these improvements in place. Our front-line health care workers need our support as we battle this pandemic and we must continue to work together to ensure their protection as we fight against this virus,” said Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union (OPSEU) President, Warren (Smokey) Thomas.

OCHU-CUPE, SEIU and Unifor launched a Judicial Review to strike down the previous Directive The improved standards mean that the application for a Judicial Review of Directive #5 will be withdrawn.