VIDEO: Striking Public Health Nurses Worried About Clients
Striking local public health unit nurses are making it clear they are worth more than a 1% raise.
The 86 nurses, members of the Ontario Nurses Association local 8, have been on strike since March 8th and they are highlighting the impacts the strike is having on the public.
Nurse after nurse took to the podium at Unifor Local 444 hall Wednesday afternoon emphasizing they are more than just nurses. They say they are teachers and advocates to help the most vulnerable people in the community.
Several programs from infectious disease, home visiting programs, sexual health and the school immunization programs have been cancelled as a result of the strike.
The health unit has offered them a 1 per cent wage increase, but nurses want more saying they want a wage increase comparable to their male counterparts in emergency services.
They say they try to help the people to prevent them from having to go to the hospital and emergency room and they question who is following up with their clients since they have been on strike.
Ontario Nurses Association flyer
Kim McAlpine is a nurse practitioner for the pre-or-post-natal clinic and takes care of women and children who don't have access to a family doctor.
"We never anticipated we would be out this long, I'm very concerned that these clients don't have good access to care."
Kim Kirkpatrick is a nurse practitioner in the sexual health clinic and is worried people are ignoring their health because there isn't a clinic available.
"I'm concerned for those people who don't have access, who don't have health cards, who are forced to pay or not paying at all because they can't afford it," says Kirkpatrick. "I'm also in fear that our walk-in clinics, as fabulous as they are, they are taxed with doing other things, the same as our Emergency Departments."
Michelle Campagnoni is the lead RN for the naloxone program and works with 15 community agencies to distribute naloxone to reverse the effects of a drug overdose. Without her work, she says people's lives are at risk.
"Every day that we not out there and every day that I'm not providing naloxone training and getting community partners aware that there is free naloxone, we are potentially losing lives, naloxone saves lives."
A tentative deal was reached in April, but nurses rejected it.
The health unit says it has offered a fair and reasonable deal to the nurses that includes an increase in benefits, wages and no concessions.