The Ontario Nurses Association says its members are upset and frustrated with a new flu shot policy at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, saying the plan got rubber-stamped without a word of consultation.

Now — with a rule that demands hospital staff members receive a flu shot or wear a mask — the nurses' union says team morale has taken a hit.

"The nurses are upset and they are very concerned because they feel quite disrespected," said Vicki McKenna, a spokesperson with the Ontario Nurses Association, which represents 1,285 nurses who work at Health Sciences North.

"They're professionals, they're registered nurses. They would have liked the opportunity to have the discussion, certainly to review the literature and to discuss the pros and cons of that.

She said some nurses can't get a flu shot for medical, religious and personal reasons, and forcing them to wear a mask unfairly singles them out.

"It's difficult, in general, just to have [the mask] on — and on properly," she said. "It is also quite concerning when you're trying to communicate with people."

Health Sciences North says the new policy complies with recently released best practices from the Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee. It says the policy protects patients during the flu season, and it applies to all front-line workers.

McKenna said patients aren't responding well to the masks.


A letter from Health Sciences North administration to hospital employees in Sudbury. (Hilary Duff/CBC)

"Particularly the elderly and young children," she said.

"It's frightening for them because they can't see the person's face well enough."

McKenna said local union representatives weren't included in any discussions with the hospital before policy changes were made. She said the union is reviewing the policy and hopes to meet with the hospital in the near future.