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Nurses gear up for fight over mandatory flu shots or masks

The Ontario Nurses Association is now fighting with five hospitals in the northeast that want to force staffers who don't get a flu shot to wear a mask.

Grievances being filed in all these workplaces

Northeastern Ontario is the hot spot for a fight between hospitals and nurses over flu shots. (Chuck Stoody/The Canadian Press)

The Ontario Nurses Association is now fighting with five hospitals in the northeast that want to force staffers who don't get a flu shot to wear a mask.

Hospitals in Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie recently brought in the policy that's already in place in Sudbury, North Bay and Espanola.

Nurses association vice-president Vicki McKenna said grievances are being filed in all these workplaces. Bringing in this policy violates the personal rights of nurses, as well as the collective agreements under which they work, she said.

But McKenna said that stance is difficult to explain to patients.

"It's hard for the public, because they say 'What the heck is this about? Why doesn't everybody get the flu shot?' And we don't want people to question the flu shot, we don't want to fight about the science."

McKenna says outside of northeastern Ontario, there are only four hospitals in Ontario with this mask policy.

Hospitals also need more comprehensive plans to deal with outbreaks, McKenna noted.

"If it's really important that masks be worn because there's an outbreak or something happening, then everybody should have a mask on,” she said.

“They're fooling themselves thinking that just because you got the flu shot you're covered."

McKenna said the association is prepared to take this fight to the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

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