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September 7, 2018

Vaccinate or mask influenza policy struck down

Media Release

September 7, 2018

Media Release

ONA Wins Second Decision on “Unreasonable and Illogical” Vaccinate or Mask Influenza Policies

TORONTO – The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) has won a second decision on the controversial vaccinate or mask (VOM) policy, striking down the policy in effect at St. Michael’s Hospital and several other hospitals that form the Toronto Academic Health Science Network (TAHSN). These policies force nurses and other health-care workers to wear an unfitted surgical mask for the entirety of their shift if they choose not to receive the influenza vaccine.

After reviewing extensive expert evidence submitted by both ONA and St. Michael’s Hospital, which was the lead case for the TAHSN group, Arbitrator William Kaplan, in his September 6 decision, found that St. Michael’s VOM policy is “illogical and makes no sense” and “is the exact opposite of being reasonable.” In reaching this conclusion, Arbitrator Kaplan rejected the hospital’s evidence. A copy of the full decision is available here.

The TAHSN group also includes Sinai Health System, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, North York General Hospital, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Michael Garron Hospital and Baycrest Health Sciences.

This is the second such win for ONA. In 2015, Arbitrator James Hayes struck down the same type of policy in an arbitration that included other Ontario hospitals across the province, with Sault Area Hospital as the lead case. Hayes found there was “scant evidence” that forcing nurses to use masks reduced the transmission of influenza to patients. Despite this clear ruling, the majority of TAHSN hospitals refused to follow the Hayes award and maintained their respective VOM policies. As a result, ONA was forced to litigate this matter again at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“The priority of nurses across Ontario is first and foremost the safety of our patients, but these hospital policies do not protect patients,” said ONA President Vicki McKenna, RN. “ONA has already successfully argued against VOM policies, proving they are fundamentally flawed, and we are deeply disappointed that taxpayers’ money has been wasted on having to do so all over again. Our collective agreement already protects our patients if the Medical Officer of Health determines there is an influenza outbreak by ensuring that comprehensive measures are put in place to reduce the risk of transmission to patients.”

Read more from ONA’s Media Release.

For more information: Ontario Nurses’ Association
Ruth Featherstone ruthf(at) 416-964-1979, ext. 2267
Ken Marciniec kenm(at) 416-964-1979, ext. 2306; 416-803-6066 (cell)

Find ONA at:;;