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  • Schreiner calls for comprehensive workplace safety and nursing shortage plan

TORONTO — Mike Schreiner made the following statement in response to the government’s pandemic response:

“If we want to protect Ontarians and limit the pressure on hospitals from the omicron surge, the Premier needs to make workplace safety a priority. And that includes schools, which will be on the frontlines as classes resume this week.

If today’s reported cabinet meeting does nothing to protect frontline workers and students or address the nursing shortage crisis, it will be a failure by the government.

Making workplaces safer means:

  • Fully acknowledging that COVID-19 is airborne and launching a mass information campaign to inform the public of how the virus actually spreads;
  • implementing airborne measures, like making N95 masks available for all frontline workers, educators and students;
  • investing in proper ventilation and filtration to improve air quality in vulnerable workplaces and congregate living;
  • free rapid tests strategically provided to frontline workplaces including schools;
  • 10 paid sick days and
  • up-to-date reporting on the latest outbreaks.

The fact that the Premier threw in the towel on COVID-19 reporting in schools is wrong and dangerous. Parents, students and educators need to know how safe their school is so they can make the appropriate decisions to keep themselves safe.

Time and time again throughout the pandemic, this government has been reactive instead of proactive, ignoring the calls for action and acting at the last possible moment.

The January back-to-school ‘plan’ is no exception. And the same is happening with the nursing shortage crisis.

In September, I wrote a letter to the Premier, urging him to take immediate action by implementing the nursing recruitment and retention plan. He ignored us, and now the health care system is under severe pressure and bursting at the seams.

According to the Ontario Nurses’ Association, nurse vacancy rates across Ontario hospitals are as high as 24%. Nurses are overworked, underpaid and being exposed to COVID-19 at record rates — in Hamilton alone, close to 600 hospital workers are unable to work due to isolation.

The Premier can start by recalling the Legislature to immediately repeal Bill 124 so nurses are able to get fair wages and the respect they deserve. And by fast-tracking accreditations for foreign-trained nurses.

The Premier’s delays and half measures have got us to this point. He’s continually behind the 8 ball and forcing parents into difficult decisions.

Prioritizing public health means the Premier must prioritize frontline workplace safety to reduce community spread and address the nursing shortage crisis.

And I’m hoping today’s cabinet meeting takes this into account and listens to our urgent calls for action. Anything else would be a failure by this government.”

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