Canada Nurses Rally Outside SARS Hospital
Thu Jun 5, 7:07 AM ET
By TOM COHEN, Associated Press Writer
TORONTO - Health care workers called for safer conditions in caring for
SARS (news - web sites) patients, as officials announced three more
probable cases in Canada's largest city, including two nurses.
Officials said Wednesday the number of
probable cases of severe acute respiratory
syndrome was 67, three more than the previous
day. Two of the three new cases were nurses
exposed while inserting breathing tubes in
SARS patients, they said.
Inserting the tubes was proving to be a risky
procedure for nurses despite the double layer of
protective gloves, masks and gowns they wear,
said Dr. Andrew Simor, a microbiologist
involved in the city's SARS containment effort.
"It's obviously very disturbing that health care
workers still are getting sick," Simor said.
Earlier, scores of nurses rallied for better pay
and working conditions in facing the
pneumonia-like virus, which has killed 32
people here. They complained they are asked
to confront a dangerous disease at regular pay
levels, while agency nurses hired for temporary
duty are better paid.
Ontario Health Minister Tony Clement
responded to the protest by saying the
provincial government would provide funds for
premium pay for nurses and other front-line
health workers at four Toronto hospitals that will
handle all the city's SARS cases.
Clement said it was up to the four hospitals to
decide whether to give full-time nurses the
premium pay, similar to the $48 an hour agency
nurses can get.
At Scarborough General Hospital, one of the
four SARS hospitals, protesting nurses said the issue involved more than
"None of us knows what the effects of SARS will be in the long-term," said
Lesline Alleyne, who works in a SARS unit.
She complained that nurses use respirator masks that block 95 percent of
contaminants, instead of better ones considered 100 percent effective.
Toronto has so far avoided a new World Health Organization (news - web
sites) travel advisory despite a renewed outbreak of SARS weeks after
officials thought they had the illness under control.
The U.N. health agency discussed the possibility of warning against travel to
Toronto on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but decided against it because
the new cases appeared under control with no spread in the general
population, said WHO spokesman Dick Thompson.
Health officials in Toronto provided further signs the outbreak was receding,
saying that 987 people remained in home quarantine because of possible
SARS exposure, down from more than 5,000 the day before. More than 200
others are being monitored for SARS-like symptoms.
Toronto authorities thought they had the illness under control after the initial
cluster appeared in March and April, but an undiagnosed case at North York
General Hospital led to a further spread among other patients, family
members and health care workers.
The second cluster of SARS cases landed Toronto back on a WHO list of
SARS-affected cities or regions. The U.N. agency also previously issued a
travel advisory for Toronto, but rescinded it a week later after Canadian
officials complained it was unwarranted and promised better screening of
international travelers for SARS.