At the beginning of September, a Toronto labor arbitrator ruled that nine Toronto-area hospitals had to end their policies that forced unvaccinated nurses to wear surgical masks, because “the hospitals couldn’t provide scientific evidence to back up the practice.”1 Arbitrator William Kaplan wrote in his 53-page decision that the arguments provided by St. Michael’s Hospital were “insufficient, inadequate, and completely unpersuasive.” 2


The ruling will also be binding at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Mount Sinai Health System, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Michael Garron Hospital, Women’s College Hospital, North York General Hospital, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

In his decision, Kaplan said the hospital failed to prove that nurses without flu symptoms were a significant source of infection and that it was “illogical to force nurses who aren’t immunized to be masked when St. Michael’s isn’t as strict with unvaccinated visitors.”3 He also heard from an expert who testified that “surgical masks fit poorly and aren’t an effective form of protection.”4 (St. Michael’s- like most hospitals- already has a policy requiring employees with infectious illnesses to stay home and employees also have to report flu symptoms.)


Both the Ontario Hospital Association and St. Michael’s were displeased with the ruling. This was the second time in three years that an arbitrator has ruled against mask requirements for unvaccinated employees in Ontario hospitals. In 2015, a decision against the Sault Area Hospital found the requirement to be an “undeclared way to force more nurses to get flu shots.” (Not to mention the fact that it leads patients to believe their nurses are sick and infected with some illness. Talk about manipulation.)


Sources and References

  1. The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2018.
  2. The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2018.
  3. The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2018.
  4. The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2018.