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Oshawa Already overworked and stressed out health care workers at Lakeridge Health (Whitby and Oshawa sites), say they are working under extreme pressure, and are anxious about working conditions with the potential outbreak of new SARS cases at the hospitals.

Worker morale at the hospitals is extremely low, and stress levels are at peak levels, say the members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1999, the union that represents nurses, dietary, custodial, and maintenance personnel at the hospitals.

Staff shortages are common, and many registered practical nurses (RPNs) are working six days straight in the week, or are covering 12-hour shifts. Front line workers are also concerned that the standard issue masks are not providing adequate protection because they do not fit snuggly on some face shapes.

Many of the staff have been placed into working quarantine which means that their family life is also disrupted. In addition to safety concerns, the nurses and other health care workers, some who also work at other hospitals and long-term care facilities, are worried about losing income. Under the provincial SARS directives, health care workers can only work at one facility.

Basically, there is no break for these nurses from the stress of dealing with SARS. There is stress from working conditions, home life upheaval, and the loss of wages, says Sid Ryan, the Ontario president of CUPE. He points out that the local Tory MPP has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars buying ads spinning out what his government has spent on health care locally, when whats obviously needed, is money being spent on more nurses and other front line staff in our hospitals.

The workers say it is also troubling that 45 health care workers, at least 25 of them nurses (RPNs), were recently given lay off notices within days of the latest potential new SARS cluster of 15 dialysis patients at Lakeridge Health (Whitby), and two men who were treated for SARS at the Oshawa site. Of those given lay off notices, 16 are nurses at the Whitby hospital where the potential SARS outbreak cluster of 15 dialysis patients is now feared.

Our hospitals are already at bare bones staffing levels, and workers are battling the most infectious disease we have dealt with in years, and for an MPP to dismiss the valid concerns of health care workers is the height of disrespect. The lay offs at hospitals must stop and workers must be listened to, says Ryan.


For more information, please contact:
Sid Ryan, President, CUPE Ontario - (416) 209-0066
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications - (416) 578-8774 opeiu491/EW