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Southlakes nurses seek your support to get staffing concerns heard by province

Ontario Nurses' Association circulating petition as they seek to end new nursing model
2021-10-23-Southlake petition-GK
Derek Montgomery and five Southlake ICU nurses share a petition at the Newmarket Farmers Market Saturday, Oct. 23. The nurses declined to give their names for fear of retribution by management.

Southlake Regional Health Centre nurses are circulating a petition to get their concerns about an ICU team-based nursing model addressed and read into the provincial legislature.

Nurses at the Newmarket hospital attended the Newmarket Farmers Market Oct. 23, garnering more than 200 signatures. The Ontario Nurses' Association has pushed for months against Southlake introducing a model to hire nurses without full critical care education and training for ICUs

Southlake nurse and ONA board member DJ Sanderson said they hope to raise public awareness and get a meeting with the government to address their concerns. They are aiming for at least 5,000 signatures.

“To make sure there’s the right, correctly trained critical care RN at the bedside ready,” Sanderson said. “They changed to this team model that we don't feel gives the best care.” 

The hospital plan comes as it faces staffing shortages and a lack of applicants who meet the criteria, a problem felt across the province amidst the pandemic. Instead of attending a 13-week critical care nursing program, the hospital will hire applicants and provide them with a 15-day training course. 

Sanderson said nurses have hoped to meet with Newmarket-Aurora MPP and Minister of Health Christine Elliott on the issue but have yet to succeed. 

“This is the one hospital in her riding. She is the minister of health and we hope she takes an active interest,” Sanderson said. 

Minister of Health spokesperson Alexandra Hilkene said the government is grateful to health-care workers, and has announced $61 million in investments to support nurse retention and recruitment in the province. But she added hospital boards are ultimately responsible for the management of their operations.

"Specific staffing decisions are up to health-care organizations subject to applicable collective agreements, relevant legislation and other measures such as emergency orders," she said. "The ministry encourages all health-care organizations to make decisions that promote quality of care and the safety of patients and providers."

The government must file a response to a petition within 24 sitting days of a presentation in the legislature, according to legislative rules.

Although the province has not intervened, the issue has got attention from the Opposition provincial NDP, which has called for action on the issue. 

Besides meeting with the minister, Sanderson said he hopes the petition can lead to an end to Southlake's new model.

“Right now, it doesn’t seem like we’re hearing a whole lot. We’re always willing to meet,” he said. “Most importantly, we want the care provided to the patients." 

Citizens can sign the petition by contacting 416-964-8833 x 2282 or