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(Toronto) - The Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing 21,000 hospital workers in Ontario, is calling for an emphasis on safe workplaces and a review of the current precautions in hospitals.

Paying nursing agency staff up to $100 an hour to work in SARS units, as is happening in some hospitals, turns peoples attention away from safety and toward compensation, said Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE). The real issue is how safe the work environment is. Given that 156 hospital staff in the Toronto area are suspected of contracting SARS, current precautions are clearly not effective and should be reviewed. This is where we need to put our emphasis.

Hurley added, Anxiety levels are extremely high in Toronto hospitals today. Staff are very angry that the guard on SARS was lowered and that this disease has again spread so rapidly. It is time to ramp up precautions, reassure and motivate a tired workforce and to focus on containing this outbreak effectively.

Health care unions have been meeting with the Ontario Hospital Association to try and mitigate the burden of working for hours in uncomfortable protective gear, to ensure that staff working on SARS units have the appropriate support, and to ensure that staff shortages can be addressed.


For more information:
Michael Hurley, cell: 416-884-0770
Andrea Addario, CUPE Communications, cell: 416-738-4329