March 11, 2005 13:14 ET

Liberal response will create patchwork of protection

Health care union says needle-stick regulation an absolute must to protect all workers, communities Attention: City Editor, Health/Medical Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor TORONTO--(CCNMatthews - March 11, 2005) - The McGuinty government's one-time funding announcement of $11.6 million for safety-engineered needles (SEDs) will create a patchwork of protection in Ontario's health-care system, says the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

"The government has completely missed the mark by refusing to implement a regulation requiring the mandatory use of SEDs," says Sharleen Stewart, SEIU's International Canadian Vice-President. "To make a bad decision worse, they their announcement completely ignores other health-care workers in nursing homes, home care, paramedics, and many others, who are exposed to the same threat every day."

Yesterday, SEIU, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union and the Ontario Federation of Labour launched a joint campaign calling for a provincial regulation requiring the mandatory use of safety-engineered needles and medical sharps devices. Similar legislation has already been in effect in the U.S. since 2001. Late last year, both Saskatchewan and Manitoba announced that their provinces will also legislate the mandatory use of SEDs.

"It's no coincidence that the McGuinty government made this sudden, knee-jerk announcement yesterday in a feeble attempt to avoid a public relations embarrassment," says Stewart.

It is estimated that the government spends $66-million per year on testing and treating workers who suffer medical sharps injuries.

"They obviously didn't do their homework. Not only will a there be a patchwork of protection, but there will be no significant reductions in costs for testing and treating injured workers," said Stewart.

On Monday, NDP Health Critic Shelly Martel introduced a private member's bill aimed at preventing injuries and infections caused by sticks with hypodermic needles and other medical sharps.

"SEIU will continue to urge all parties to support this important, life-saving legislation tabled by Ms. Martel," says Stewart. "Funding or not, voluntary compliance will never work under existing law. Saskatchewan and Manitoba understand this fact and have done the responsible thing by implementing regulations requiring the mandatory use of SEDs. Ontario workers deserve the same level of protection."

Stewart warns that, without a regulation, employers will continue to purchase the cheaper, less-safe conventional devices to save a few pennies at the expense of workers' lives.

"That's why our campaign is demanding a regulation requiring the mandatory use of these devices. It is the only way to guarantee full compliance. Anything less, will give us less," she says.

A needle-stick injury occurs when a worker's skin is punctured with a used needle or medical sharp device. These injuries can transmit over 33 blood-borne diseases. More than 33,000 of these injuries occur in Ontario every year.

SEIU Canada represents over 93,000 workers from coast to coast, the majority of whom work in health care.
/For further information: Ted Mansell, Health and Safety Coordinator, SEIU Canada 416-427-9794 IN: HEALTH, LABOUR

Contact Information

  • Carl Mavromichalis, National Communications Coordinator
    Primary Phone: 416-951-4905
    Secondary Phone: 416-447-2311 ext. 243