‘Nurses are extremely burnt out:’ local ONA rep

Blurred figures of people with medical uniforms in hospital corridor. © Can Stock Photo / VILevi

The local coordinator of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) says a number of things can be done to address a shortage of nurses locally and across the province.

Registered Nurse (RN) and ONA Local 19 Coordinator Emily Webb said the current shortage and crisis in Ontario was created long before the pandemic.

Webb said the ONA has suggested increasing funding to healthcare, increasing the number of RNs so Ontario reaches the Canadian average per capita (Ontario currently has the worst ratio in Canada), and repealing Bill 124.  Webb called the piece of legislation a wage suppression bill that eliminates their rights to freely collective bargain.

“For a three year wage cap at one per cent, it doesn’t even keep up to inflation — it’s very unattractive to nurses,” said Webb.  “Nurses are extremely stressed out, burnt out, and senior nurses are leaving.”

Webb said there are now fewer experienced nurses to train and educate newer nurses coming on.  She said some nurses would consider not leaving or retired nurses would consider coming back if Bill 124 was not on the table.

In January the ONA tweeted that it does “not support the termination of unvaccinated nurses and health-care professionals for the very reason that is becoming crystal clear – mass nursing shortages.”

Webb said around two to three members of ONA were terminated or placed on leave in November for not complying with Bluewater Health’s mandatory vaccination policy.

“ONA recommends and fully supports all members to be vaccinated if they can be, but we also recognize it is a personal decision and it should be based on voluntary and informed consent, and with the advice of a healthcare professional.  So, it might not be the right thing for everybody and vaccines are not the complete answer.”

Webb reiterated that the association fully supports vaccinations and also fully supports that individuals have the right to make a decision about their own healthcare needs.

Sarnia News Today asked Webb if Bluewater Health should rehire the terminated ONA employees.

“I can’t speak to necessarily rehiring.  I can say that ONA is filing group grievances on behalf of the individual members.  I do think that if proper infection prevention and control measures and PPE are in place, there’s other ways to mitigate the risk factors of the members who are not fully vaccinated right now.”

Registered Nurse and ONA Local 19 Coordinator Emily Webb (BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Registered Nurse and ONA Local 19 Coordinator Emily Webb (BlackburnNews.com file photo)

Webb said even if those two to three members came back, it’s not going to make a huge difference when there’s such a shortage of nurses right now.

Webb added that employers should be removing some of the barriers that may be causing vaccine hesitancy.

“Hosting clinics at worksites, providing sick-pay for those who cannot work following a vaccine due to side-effects, and even paid time to obtain the vaccine.  If some of the barriers were removed, it might entice others to get vaccinated.”

Webb said other measures the province can take to address a shortage of nurses is shift from part-time hiring to full-time hiring, increase the number of RN seats in Ontario universities, and to work with employers and the ONA to develop innovative retention strategies to keep skilled RNs in the profession.

With files from Natalia Vega