The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is looking to ease concerns regarding its capability of handling infectious diseases during the current nurse’s strike.

CEO and Chief Nursing Officer, Theresa Marentette, released a statement on Tuesday reassuring residents the health unit is ready to respond despite the labour disruption.

“The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit remains prepared to address measles and other infectious diseases during the current labour disruption,” said Marentette. “The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will continue its important work in the prevention and management of infectious diseases during the current labour disruption.”

Marentette added there are currently no cases of measles in Windsor or Essex County.

“We continue to ask for our community’s patience and understanding as we work to minimize service interruptions during the current labour disruption,” says Marentette. “The health and wellbeing of our community continues to be our top priority.”

The 86 nurse practioners, registered practical nurses and public health nurses went on strike on Friday to demand more money after rejecting the agency’s final contract offer.

The members of the Ontario Nurses Association have been working without a contract since March 31, 2018.

Members of the Windsor and District Labour Council will also join the nurses on the picket line this week, in an effort to lobby the provincial government for a solution.

“There’s 32 health units that the Nurses Association bargain for across the province and they're one of the lowest paid out of 32,” says WDLC president Brian Hogan. “They're not asking to be the highest, they're asking to move up from near the bottom.”

The health unit disputes the claim from the union, arguing its nurses are paid a fair and competitive wage.

“Statistics show that Windsor-Essex County Health Unit nurses are compensated on par with the average nursing wage in public health units across Ontario," says Marentette. "In fact, their compensation beats that of public health nurses in regions like Toronto, Peel, Niagara and Middlesex-London. We have offered a wage increase of 3% over three years which will ensure that our nurse wages are both fair and competitive.”

Diaper Drive

The striking nurses are holding a diaper drive this week. The nurses will accept diapers and donate them to  The Downtown Mission on Friday.

The initiative is being called the “Time for a Change” diaper drive.

Donations will be accepted on the picket line out front of the health unit offices at 1005 Ouellette Avenue, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday.

The nurses are represented by ONA, which represents more than 65,000 registered nurses and healthcare professionals.