SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION CANADA

SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION CANADA

March 15, 2005 13:30 ET

UNIONS, NDP CANDIDATE CALL FOR REGULATION TO STOP DEADLY INJURIES

Safety-engineered medical devices a win-win solution for workplaces and communities Attention: City Editor, Health/Medical Editor, News Editor, Science Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor VICTORIA--(CCNMatthews - March 15, 2005) - A coalition of labour unions and a Victoria New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate are demanding that the B.C. government implement regulation making the use of safety-engineered medical devices (SEDs) mandatory to protect workers, make the province's health-care system more efficient and to protect communities from used needles.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Canada, the B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers' Union (BCFMWU) and NDP candidate for Victoria-Hillside Rob Fleming made the call during a joint news conference today.

"This province is spending millions on testing and treating workers who suffer needle-stick injuries," says Mike McDonald, President of SEIU Local 244. "The government could eliminate up to 90% of these injuries and the associated costs by replacing conventional needles with safety-engineered versions."

A needle-stick injury occurs when the skin is punctured by a used needle or medical sharp device. These preventable injuries can transmit over 33 blood-borne diseases, including potentially fatal diseases like HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

McDonald says that over 6,800 needle-sticks occur every year in acute care alone in B.C., which costs the government $13.6-million to test and treat injured workers. He says conversion in acute care would cost $3.6-million, which means the Ministry of Health would realize an annual net saving of over $8-million.

"They can reallocate the savings to priority areas like reducing wait lists or purchasing MRI machines," McDonald says, noting that the figures do not include the cost of testing and treating all other workers and citizens in the province who are stuck by used needles found in public spaces. "We refuse to sit idly by as workers and citizens are being injured, are ill and are dying."

BCFMWU Local 18 Staff Representative Dan Rowe says the threat of used needles extends well beyond the realm of health care.

"Our members encounter used needles in ferry washrooms and other public spaces where they pose a threat to anyone who may come into contact with them," he says. "We can save lives if we eliminate the threat that used needles pose, both to our members and the public, through the use of engineering controls."

Even though the technology to protect workers and the public exists, Fleming says, the government has ignored calls from SEIU for the implementation of this regulation.

"We are here to say that this government's inaction is completely unacceptable," he says. "The technology exists. The regulation works. The government has an obligation to properly protect the workers and citizens of this province."

McDonald says that the U.S. saw the incidence of needle-stick injuries plummet by over 50 per cent in the first year following the implementation of a law requiring the mandatory use of SEDs.

SEIU will be building on its success in Saskatchewan and Manitoba where it lobbied both provinces to commit to safety-engineered devices in late 2004. A private member's bill calling for regulation has been introduced in Ontario and one will be introduced by the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia this spring.

SEIU Canada represents 93,000 workers from coast to coast.

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For more information please contact:

Mike McDonald, President, SEIU Local 244, (604) 802-4267

Carl Mavromichalis, SEIU National Communications Coordinator, (416) 951-4905 (cell)
/For further information: Mike McDonald, President, SEIU Local 244, (604) 802-4267 -- www.SaferNeedlesNow.ca/ IN: HEALTH, LABOUR

Contact Information

  • Carl Mavromichalis, National Communications Coordinator
    Primary Phone: 416-951-4905
    Secondary Phone: 416-447-2311 ext. 243
    E-mail: mavromichalisc@seiu.ca