Essential services to be maintained in event of strike: Health unit
Food service inspections, vaccine distribution, dental appointments would be unaffected
Peterborough Public Health has contingency plans to maintain essential public health services should it not reach a collective agreement with its registered nurses before they are in a lawful strike position later this month, officials stated Tuesday.
The contract dispute, which went to conciliation early last month, goes to mediation Monday with a legal strike/lockout date following two days later. The 31 nurses, members of the Ontario Nurses Association (ONA), have been without a contract since October 2017.
“In the event of an ONA strike, nursing services would be impacted, but we do have plans in place to maintain essential public health services and we plan to use our website and local media to keep the public informed of any changes in operations,” medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra said in a recorded statement released Tuesday.
Essential services that would not be impacted include responding to public health emergencies, outbreak investigations, vaccine distribution, investigation and followup to all reported cases of diseases of public health significance, officials stated.
Investigation of health hazard complaints, food premises inspections and provision of oral health screening in schools and dental clinic appointments would also be unaffected.
Should there be a strike, the health unit will remain open between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
weekdays, but several services and programs will be affected, officials stated.
A list of those services will be posted Nov. 27 at www.peterboroughpublichealth.ca, should there be a labour disruption, officials stated. Residents are also encouraged to follow the health unit on social media
@PtboHealth for updates.
The main issue is that nurses want to keep working in specialized areas like other health professionals, bargaining unit president Diane Lockman said last Wednesday during an information picket before the monthly board of health meeting.
“We want to continue to keep our community safe by continuing to work in the roles we have the skills to be in,” the registered nurse said.
Lockman, who also pointed out the nurses are the lowest paid of five surrounding health units, said the union is willing to make compromises so the two sides can reach a settlement when they come to the mediation table.
The health unit looks forward to mediation, Salvaterra said. “Peterborough Public Health has been in negotiations with ONA for several months and we remain committed to negotiating a fair and equitable agreement for all.”
Health unit officials also reminded those who access public health services that there could be picket lines, including at its headquarters at 185 King St.
For safety, officials asked them to be prepared for larger crowds, to be patient and courteous, to arrive early with delays likely and that inappropriate behaviour by either side is not acceptable — and possibly illegal.
Security will be on hand to assist, if needed, officials stated.
The ONA represents more than 65,000 registered nurses and health-care professionals, as well as 18,000 nursing student affiliates, providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, clinics and industry.
Peterborough Public Health Nurses hold an information picket outside Jackson Square prior to the board of health meeting on Nov. 14.