St. Mary’s Addresses Staff Safety Concerns Raised by Labour Partners

March 22nd, 2020

The following is a statement from St. Mary’s President Lee Fairclough in response to concerns raised by labour partners about staff safety in relation to COVID-19.

St. Mary’s first priority is the health and safety of our staff and patients. We can reassure patients and family that their care is safe in our hospital. As we have managed through, and are preparing for COVID-19 in our community and hospital, St. Mary’s has worked proactively to comply quickly with new directives, ensure we are meeting all standards of safety in the use of personal protective equipment, and how we are caring for our patients.

The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) posted a news release on March 21, which contained details that are not entirely accurate.

St. Mary’s has strong infection prevention and control policies that align with provincial standards and the provincial public health directive.  When a potential exposure occurs, we have a clear process to investigate it quickly.

Extensive investigation and follow up has occurred with staff who were potentially exposed since we learned of a patient’s positive test result for COVID-19 on Thursday, March 19. St. Mary’s can confirm that over 50 staff, including nurses, were at risk of potential exposure. St. Mary’s has referred six staff who were symptomatic to public health for fast tracked testing. We have not tested those who are asymptomatic because it is not believed that it is effective, and as such, not reflected in any provincial guidance.

We have been working hard with our labour partner, the ONA to address concerns. St. Mary’s received a call from the Ministry of Labour during the late evening of March 20 as a result of a complaint from ONA. St. Mary’s acknowledged it immediately and began to work through the concerns and continue to do so.

A field visit by the Ministry of Labour at St. Mary’s occurred on March 12 to assess the organization’s preparedness for COVID-19 infection prevention and control. These visits were part of the province’s preparations for COVID-19 across Ontario. This visit included an administrative review of St. Mary’s measures and procedures for COVID-19, which included personal protective equipment and appropriate access to it. The Ministry was satisfied with our preparedness.

In my discussions tonight with ONA President, Vicki McKenna, I invited her to call me at any time should she start to hear worries from our staff. I care about staff at St. Mary’s, and it has been my goal since starting as President in January of 2020 to establish an open and collaborative environment. Many of the nurses in our organization have been welcoming and open to bringing suggestions forward. I hope that will continue, and I extend the same invitation to the ONA leadership to the highest level provincially.

We continue to take this matter very seriously. It is an understandable time of worry for all involved, particularly health care workers, and our approach has been to communicate, support their training as needed, and ensure we’ve got the right policies and practices in place for their safety. This will continue as we work through concerns and during this trying time with COVID-19