Ontario Nurses Labeled as ‘Brazenly Self-Serve’ in Union Strike After Tory Attacks

Hospital fires are the new reality for Ontario nurses in the wake of the province’s naloxone funding cuts. While the Liberal government has attempted to change the topic of conversation, what these eight unionized nurses are actually saying makes headlines, and even chimes in with some terrifying words.

Linda Oosterhof, an 84-year-old nurse at a hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, lost her job with the Ontario Hospital Association, after the organization denied funding for the use of naloxone kits—a lifesaving drug used to treat opioid overdoses.

“We are on the brink of collapse,” Oosterhof, said. “A huge, heavy, steamroller is coming in, and the problem is, we don’t have any breath from this province.”

Oosterhof’s employer, a hospital network, decided not to fund nurses who wanted to administer naloxone kits after the Liberal government doubled last year’s funding to $12 million and had confirmed that additional funding would be made available for this program.

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In the midst of a growing opioid crisis that has claimed more than 1,200 lives in Ontario, unionized nurses made this decision without warning. The professional group maintained that everyone who wants to administer naloxone and uses the kits must be certified by the Ontario College of Nurses.

However, the Ontario College of Nurses was instrumental in funding this program in 2016. The national association representing the country’s nurses dismissed these claims, accusing the Liberal government of “short-shrift[ing] the nurses,” according to a lengthy opinion piece published in the Toronto Star.

While the provincial College of Nurses was instrumental in creating and funding the program, hundreds of individual nurses—representing one of the most vulnerable professions in the country—have been forced to fight to get the funds necessary to survive.

“Even as I drove my last shift, I was trying to figure out what my next steps would be,” said Kathy Thomas, a registered nurse, and a strike member. “You start packing, you start studying, you start thinking about legal options.”

A strike by Ontario nurses has been in effect since August 20 and has spread to B.C. and Manitoba.

Despite Ontario’s College of Nurses reaching a deal with the province on Saturday, Lorie Stanislaw, a spokesperson for the Ontario Nurses’ Association, announced that “no one knows the future of Ontario nurses.”

“More and more nurses are reaching a point of no return,” Stanislaw said. “It’s something we’ve never seen in our careers as a profession.”

Eileen McEvoy, another one of the striking nurses, was informed that one of her prescriptions, a reversal medication for an opioid-induced codeine withdrawal, was returned. “I can’t get this medication because I can’t get funding for it,” she said.

In Burlington, Ontario, a hospital stated that they’d been forced to lay off 28 nurses to balance their budget. “I’m telling you, it’s like a death march,” Joanna Mose, one of those laid off, said. “It’s sad, and it has nothing to do with patients.”

What’s more, many unionized nurses have made decisions not to picket and work from home, a situation which can be even more dangerous given the number of times they’ve seen their colleagues and friends “end up dead in front of them in their homes,” Mose said.

But, with a mounting crisis taking root in Ontario and across the country, why do the Liberals seem so unconcerned? Why are the lives of nurses sacrificed yet again?

The answer is simple: the Liberals say that they have a responsibility to the taxpayers.

Todd Steakley has worked as a journalist covering politics and government since 2010. He is the news director at FreedomWorks. Follow him on Twitter @tpsteakley.

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