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Health-care professionals call on Ontario to restore paid sick days, eliminate need for doctor’s notes as coronavirus spreads


February 4, 2020
By Talent Canada Staff

Topics
A graphic on the Decent Work & Health Network's website.

Nearly 180 health professionals in Ontario are urging the government to restore paid sick days under provincial labour laws as the coronavirus ripples around the globe.

The health-care workers signed an open letter to Premier Doug Ford and other government officials urging them to change the law. The province rolled back paid sick day policies in 2019.

With numerous presumptive cases in the province, public health officials are recommending that people with mild cold-like symptoms stay home and avoid close contact with others.

“However, recent labour law changes under the Ford government mean that workers cannot follow this advice,” the letter, dated Feb. 4, states.

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It goes on to outline some of the critical changes for workers, including:

  • Reduced job-protected personal emergency leave (PEL) from 10 days to eight days, with zero paid sick days
  • Changed job-protected PEL from being flexible to prescriptive and rigid, with three days for personal illness, three days for a family emergency and two for bereavement
  • Reinstitued a provision that allows employers to require sick notes from health providers when workers access emergency leave.

For many workers, staying home sick also means forgoing their wages, the professionals pointed out.

“This includes workers in high-risk settings, such as those with food preparation duties, especially the handling of ready-to-eat foods, working in acute care or long-term care facilities, and working with children in childcare,” the letter states.

Moreover, parents are forced to send sick children to school because they cannot afford to take unpaid time off or to afford childcare.

Simply put, “a lack of paid sick days results in children and adults transmitting infections at school and work, exacerbating contagion throughout the province,” the letter states.

Real stats highlight problem

A study on the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in the United States, a country with no national paid sick day policy, found eight million people went to work while infected, spreading the illness to an additional seven million people, the letter states.

“Evidence shows that paid sick days are a vital measure to decrease the spread of illness and ensure proper recovery,” the health care professionals say. “In the context of recent concerns with the novel coronavirus in Ontario, we consider the current provincial labour laws to be a serious threat to the health and safety of Ontarians.”

The national picture

In September 2019, the federal government implemented five PEL days for all federally-regulated workers, three of which are paid. In Quebec, a similar policy exists, providing workers with five days of PEL, two of which are paid.

“Our patients in Ontario must also be able to stay at home and recuperate from new and existing infectious threats,” the letter states. “They will be unable to do so unless they have paid sick days.

The letter ends with a call for the province to reinstate 10 days of flexible PEL, seven of which should be paid — and an end to mandatory sick notes.

Who signed the letter

Here’s the full list of the 179 professionals who put their name on the dotted line.

  1. Kate Hayman, Emergency Physician, MD
  2. Jesse McLaren, Emergency Physician, MD
  3. Carolina Jimenez, Registered Nurse, MPH
  4. Robyn Beckett, Public Health Professional, MPH
  5. Hasan Sheikh, Emergency Physician, MD
  6. Lyne Hamel, Infant and Child Development Worker, CYW
  7. Amy Soberano, Registered Social Worker, MSW, RSW
  8. Nicole Nitti, Family/Emergency physician, MD, CCFP
  9. Amber Brown, Nurse, RPN
  10. Sue Hranilovic, NP-PHC
  11. Gary Bloch, Family Physician, MD CCFP
  12. Anya Archer, Public Health Professional, MPH
  13. Susan Burgess, Primary Care Nurse, RN
  14. Joey Lee, Registered Nurse, RN
  15. Jessica Arteaga, Registered Nurse, RN
  16. Ahmed Bayoumi, Physician, MD MSc FRCPC
  17. Alice Gauntley, Research Assistant, MPH
  18. Susan Rosenthal, Physician, MD
  19. Leslie Solomonian, Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, ND
  20. Michael Dyer, Personal Support Worker, PSW
  21. Rosalyn Haffenden, Public Health Nurse, RN
  22. Nancy Zhang, Resident Physician, MD
  23. Eden Wright, Registered Nurse
  24. Madeline McDonald, Medical Student, MSc
  25. Danyaal Raza, Family Physician, MD, MPH
  26. Donald Cole, Occupational, Environmental and Public Health Medicine Consultant, MD, FRCP(C)
  27. Arianna Livadas, Clinical Assistant, MLA/T
  28. Cheryl Eadie, Registered Social Worker, MSW RSW
  29. Jody Smith, Registered Nurse, RN
  30. Julia Barnett, Manager of Urban Health and CTS
  31. Emily Bellicoso, Medical Student, BSc Honours
  32. Chelsea Gagne, Client Support Worker, BA RSSW
  33. Sandra Rivas, Nursing Aid
  34. Philip Sweeney, Peer Mentor
  35. Lucy Manchester, Family physician, MD
  36. Patricia Swick, Social Worker, MSW
  37. Peter Saczkowski, Paramedic
  38. Bernard Ho, Family Medicine Resident, MD
  39. Caryn Green, Family Physician, MD CCFP
  40. Alexander Glover, Emergency Physician, MB BCh BAO
  41. Cheryl Eadie, Registered Social Worker, MSW RSW
  42. Shobana Ananth, Emergency Physician, MD
  43. Jesse Bauman, Medical student, BASC, MA
  44. Ricky Rodrigues, Research Operations & Access Officer, MSW, RSW
  45. Faiza Majeed, Family physician, MD
  46. Bryna Levitin, Physician, MDCM, FRCPC
  47. Sabrina La Tona, Social Worker
  48. Sarah Follett, Family Physician, MD, CCFP
  49. Arianne Di Nardo, Herbalist
  50. Amanda Whitten, Family Physician, MD CCFP
  51. Alissa Tedesco, Palliative Care Physician, MD
  52. Sarah Stonehocker, Emergency Physician, MD
  53. Melanie Spence, RN
  54. Trevor Morey, Physician, MD
  55. Jessica Gilbert, Registered Social Worker, MSW, RSW
  56. Mariah Hughes, Resident Physician, MD
  57. Michaela Beder, Psychiatrist, MD
  58. Jennifer Hulme, Emergency Physician, MD, MPH
  59. Hayeong Rho, Medical Student
  60. Terri-lynn Langdon, Social Worker, MSW, RSW
  61. Jasmine Waslowski, Medical Student
  62. Giuliana Guarna, Resident Physician, MD
  63. Susannah McGeachy, Nurse Practitioner, NP-PHC
  64. Llijah Pearce, Registered Nurse, RN
  65. Edward Xie, Physician
  66. Daniel Bierstone, Paediatrics Resident, MD
  67. Natalie Munn, Family Physician, MD
  68. Jordan Mak, Registered Dietitian, RD
  69. Jonathon Herriot, Family Physician, MD, CCFP, BSc, AAHIVS
  70. Anne Egger, Nurse Practitioner, RNEC
  71. Nisha Kansal, Medical Student, MD Candidate
  72. Ankur Chhabra, Public Health Professional, MPH
  73. Michael Kruse, Paramedic, MD Candidate 2020, AEMCA, ACP
  74. Daniela Graziano, Registered Nurse, RN
  75. Victoria Pho, Family Physician, MD
  76. Lauren Rodzynek, Paramedic, ACP
  77. Sehjal Bhargava, Medical Student
  78. Kim Hebert, Occupational Therapist, OTReg(Ont)
  79. Bev Leaver, Social Worker, MSW
  80. M. Karin Ng, Registered Dietitian, MHSc, RD
  81. Lindsay Coutts, MEd Psychotherapy Student
  82. Christopher Draenos, Registered Nurse, RN
  83. Vicki Mcgregor, Registered Nurse, RN
  84. Jill Macdonald, Social Worker, MSW
  85. Jeremiah Villanueva, Primary Care Paramedic
  86. Josiah Osagie, Resident Physician, MD
  87. Agatha Vanek, Paramedic
  88. Allison Rason, Primary Care Paramedic, A-EMCA, PCP
  89. Stephanie Sarmiento, Registered Nurse, RN
  90. Angela Musitano, Personal Support Worker
  91. Lesley Williams, Personal Support Worker
  92. Amanda Walsh, Public Health Nurse, RN
  93. Yue Dong, Medical Student, MSc
  94. Judy Stanley, Registered Nurse, RN BSCN MN
  95. Kelly Whiteway, Paramedic
  96. Najib Safieddine, Surgeon MD
  97. Fatemah Habib, Medical Student, PhD
  98. Rui Pires, HIV Worker, BAH
  99. Lily Rico, Paramedic
  100. Steve Thuraisingham, Paramedic, ACP
  101. Sarah Giles, Emergency and Family Physician, MD
  102. Mostafa Atri, Radiologist, MD
  103. Ushma Purohit, Medical Student
  104. Crystal Chan, Occupational Therapist, OT Reg. (Ont.)
  105. Imaan Javeed, Medical Student
  106. Flavia Federico, BSO
  107. Janine Moloney, Physician Assistant, CCPA
  108. Poonam Dhir, Mental Health Counselor, RP, CCC
  109. Katherine Grzejszczak, Advanced Care Paramedic
  110. Diana Whellams, Medical Microbiologist, MD
  111. Alison Charlebois, Family Physician, MD
  112. Martin Otarola, Front-Line Shelter Worker
  113. Lesley Barron, General Surgeon, MD
  114. Vincent Tang, Medical Student
  115. Jo Bayes, Registered Nurse PACU/ED, RN
  116. Nicole Nitti, Family/Emergency physician, MD CCFP
  117. Katrina Hui, Resident Physician, MD, MS
  118. Simone Smith, Personal Support Worker, PSW
  119. Bonnie Peake, Respiratory Therapist, RRT
  120. Maeve Freeman-McIntyre, Outpost Nurse, RN
  121. Allison Ouellette Family Medicine Resident, MD
  122. Sarah Reynolds, Mental Health Nurse, RN
  123. Mallory Cochrane, Family Service Worker, SR
  124. Ritika Goel, Family Physician, MD, MPH, CCFP
  125. Steve Oldridge, Family Physician, MD FCFP
  126. Joyce Rankin, Registered Nurse, RN
  127. Benjamin Langer, Family Doctor, MD CCFP
  128. Maureen Jamieson, Registered Dental Hygienist, RDH
  129. Joanne Diamond-Hayes, Dental Assistant Treatment Coordinator
  130. Alyse Schacter, MD
  131. Amy Connolly, Registered Social Worker, MSW, RSW
  132. Lisa Nussey, Midwife, RM
  133. Margaret Hess, Resident Doctor, MD
  134. Britt Harrison, Family Physician, CCFP
  135. Maxwell Tran, Medical Student
  136. Jackie Bellaire, Family Physician, MD
  137. Ann Duggan, Family Physician, MD
  138. Kathy Hardill, Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, NP
  139. Claire Slavin-Stewart, Medical resident, MD
  140. Betty Hum, Family Doctor, MD, CCFP
  141. Eleanor Colledge, Family Physician, MD
  142. Simran Dhunna, Public Health Professional, MPH
  143. Marie-Josee Klett, Family Physician, MD
  144. Nikhita Singhal, Psychiatry Resident, MD
  145. KitShan Lee, Family Physician, MD
  146. Eugenie Waters, Family Physician, MD, CCFP
  147. Conchita Fonseca, Family Physician, MD
  148. Omaima Kobaisy, Family Physician, MD
  149. Nimerta Dhami, Registered Midwife, RM
  150. Megan Schlorff, Pediatrics Resident, MD
  151. Sarah Partridge, Physician
  152. Simone Smith, Personal Support Worker, PSW
  153. Jennifer Purdy Family Physician, MD
  154. Kathy Kortes-Miller, Assistant Professor, MSW, PhD
  155. Leonor Separi, Medical Student, BSc
  156. Marnie Luck, Naturopathic Doctor, ND
  157. Laura Stratton, Family Physician, MD, CCFP
  158. Anne Chiarelli, Vision Rehabilitation Therapist, RN
  159. Loretta Urbantas, Registered Nurse, RN
  160. Sonja Babovic, Resident Doctor, MD
  161. Kate Peiyin Zhang, Resident physician, MD
  162. Shannon Cohane, Family Physician, MD
  163. Dan Cojocaru, Family Physician, MD
  164. Hazal Mustafa, Family Medicine Resident, MD
  165. Amika Gupta, Public Health Professional, MPH
  166. Chetan Mehta, Family Physician, MD
  167. Jenna Schlorff, Public Health Professional, MPH
  168. Hannah Friedman, Biomedical Industry Worker, H.BSc, MPH
  169. Stephanie Napoleone, Resident Physician, MD, MSW
  170. Jenna Robertson Bly, Midwife
  171. Sana Gill, Medical Student
  172. Keeley Farrell, MPH
  173. Kelsey Henry, Program Officer, MPH
  174. Caitlin Fitzpatrick, Family Physician, MD CCFP
  175. Kapri Rabin, Executive Director, MSW
  176. Maryanne Condruk, Registered Nurse, RN
  177. Jordan Rendell, Registered Nurse
  178. Zahra Sayyed, Public Health Professional, MPH
  179. Kevin Lam, Resident Physician, MD

The letter was sent via email on February 4, 2020 to Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario; Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health; and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development. Copying: Dr. David Williams, Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health; Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada; Dr. Eileen De Villa, Medical Officer of Health Toronto Public Health; Dr. Gary Garber, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control; Sandra Callery, Director, Infection Prevention and Control, Public Health Ontario; MPP Peggy Sattler, Employment Standards Opposition Critic; MPP France Gélinas, Health Care Opposition Critic; MPP Michael Coteau, Labour Critic; MPP John Fraser, Health and Long-Term Care Critic; and MP Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health for Canada