King of the road – “ain’t got no cigarettes”

Image of cigarette

And neither should you as May 31 marks World No Tobacco Day. The list of forbidden fruit, or leaves in this case includes both smoked and smoke-less tobacco such as chewing tobacco (pellets, plug and twist), snuff, snus, gutka, dokha, makla or mu’assel to name a few.

Every year, on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners mark World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), highlighting the health risks associated with tobacco use and advocating for effective policies to reduce tobacco consumption. For World No Tobacco Day 2015, they are calling on countries to work together to end the illicit trade of tobacco products. From many angles, illegal tobacco products are a major global concern, including health, legal and economic, governance and corruption issues.

As a union of healthcare professionals, we feel it is an important issue to raise, if solely from the health perspective.

The ugly truth

  • Tobacco kills up to half of its users
  • Tobacco kills nearly 6 million people each year. 600 000 are due to second-hand smoke
  • Nearly 80% of the world’s one billion smokers live in low- and middle-income countries
  • Unless something is done, by 2030 the annual death toll will be 8 million

Need help quitting?

Visit  Smokers’ Helpline a free, confidential service operated by the Canadian Cancer Society offering support and information about quitting smoking and tobacco use. As well, Health Canada offers a free guide called On the road to Quitting – Guide to becoming a non-smoker to help you on your journey.



Shocking leaflet at my door: the limits of political canvassing

Image of mailboxSpecial post by Christine Purdy

Flyers stuffed in your mailbox. Knocks on your door. Canvassers making sure you get out to vote. With the federal election looming in fall 2015 it’s getting to be that time.

Organizations besides politicians and their supporters get involved in elections too. For example, SEIU Healthcare members work to get out the vote during election time, asking voters to keep public healthcare services top of mind.

In our democratic system everyone has a voice. From time to time those voices can cross the line of decency in the name of partisan gain. Already in this election year that line has been crossed.

I live in a family-oriented suburb of the GTA. My husband went to get the mail the other day while I watched our 2-year-old daughter. When he returned, he came to me and said, “This is the most disturbing thing I have ever seen in my life,” handing me what looked like a political flyer.

The flyer was disturbing because it contained graphic images and messaging about abortion, making claims about the position of a federal political leader on this issue. The Toronto Star reported that the Campaign Life Coalition was behind this.

I was furious. No, I was outraged. What campaign manager would think that sending out this kind of literature to my home is acceptable? I am always open to a discussion on politics, including the issue of abortion. However, politics and pro-life vs. pro-choice opinions aside, please do not litter my mailbox with shocking and inappropriate material.

What if my toddler – who is starting to figure out her world – had looked at the pile of mail and saw that picture? What happens when these cards blow out of mailboxes onto the street and children pick them up? There is no control of who the viewing audience will be. Is this organization so desperate to find supporters for its campaign that it is willing to risk the health and mental wellness of innocent children?

Especially in this soon-to-be election period, the public expects organizations and political parties to express their views in many shapes and forms. But to all political types out there: please do not send these types of graphic, disturbing and offensive images to my household or any other! Use your human decency to judge whether you are crossing boundaries for political gain.

Behind the Scenes: PSW Day at Queen’s Park

SEIU Healthcare’s PSWs are quite well-known at Queen’s Park in Toronto. Invited on behalf of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, I followed five Personal Support Workers as they spent the morning of May 14th exploring one of Ontario’s most historic government buildings.

Seated in the Speaker’s Gallery upon arrival, Ghiti Iravani, Hazel John, Theresa Matteer, Penney Murphy, and Theresa Thomas represented Personal Support Workers in Community Care, Long-Term Care and Homecare across the province. Later, they stood and received a standing ovation from all three parties of the Legislative Assembly.

“It was nice that we were recognized by Eric Hoskins,” said Long-Term Care PSW Hazel John from Tendercare Nursing Home. “It made us feel special as proud SEIU PSWs.”

The SEIU Healthcare PSWs were also greeted by a familiar face while seated in the Speaker’s Gallery. Associate Minister of Finance (Ontario Pension Plan) Mitzie Hunter left her seat to pop by for a warm greeting, welcoming all that were in attendance at Queen’s Park.

“I saw some old friends sitting over here so I had to come by and say hello,” said Hunter, who participated in SEIU Healthcare’s celebration of Black History Month last February.

Mitize Hunter and Eric Hoskins both stopped to chat and take a few photos with our Personal Support Workers once there was a break in Question Period.

“We’ve got to make sure that PSWs are treated with respect and dignity and that your salary levels reflect as well the important work that you do,” said Hoskins.

Our Personal Support Workers were then given a tour of the historic structure, stopping to view the various displays, one of which showcased the historic nursing uniforms from the 1930s, showing how far we’ve come from traditional nursing attire and image.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to take part in today’s experience,” said Theresa Matteer, PSW at Fairview Nursing Home. “There’s no question that they [the MPPs] understand the value that PSWs bring to Ontario’s healthcare system across all fields, and if they don’t know we’ll enlighten them.”

Mary Seacole


On Nursing Day we profiled the life of Florence Nightingale, the founder of the modern nursing profession. Today we are going to profile another nurse who was also very active alongside Nightingale in the 1850s. Mary Jane Seacole was a Jamaican nurse known for her nursing work throughout the 1800s.

She was born in 1805 in Jamaica to a Scottish soldier and a free black Jamaican woman. In 1850 she moved to Panama where she became famous for treating victims of a cholera outbreak. Even though she treated wealthy cholera patients, she treated the poor for free.

She developed a good reputation in treating patients using tropical medicines. After she heard British soldiers weren’t being cared for properly during the Crimean War of 1853-56, she travelled to Crimea in the Black Sea region. There she tended to soldiers, sometimes under heavy fire. She was widely known among the British as ‘Mother Seacole’.

In a newspaper article written in 1855, distinguished Irish reporter,William Howard Russell, described Seacole as a “warm and successful physician, who doctors and cures all manner of men with extraordinary success. She is always in attendance near the battle-field to aid the wounded and has earned many a poor fellow’s blessing.”

After the war she returned to Great Britain in poor health. Her work with Florence Nightingale was almost forgotten until her bravery and medical skills were recorded in her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands. The book is a vivid account of her experiences and is one of the earliest autobiographies of a mixed-race woman.

Mary Jane Seacole is just one of the pioneering women who helped modernize the nursing profession and expanded the role of women in the workforce.


Who Was Florence Nightingale?

Florence Nightingale

Nursing Day is celebrated every year on May 12 in many countries across the world. This day is in honour of Florence Nightingale, a British nurse who founded the modern nursing profession in the 1800s.

Nightingale was born into an upper class British family in 1820. She made her first impressive mark in the field of healthcare during the Crimean War, which took place from 1853-1856 in the Black Sea region near Russia and Turkey. She led a team of 38 women who nursed and cared for wounded British soldiers in the conflict. Her team found the medical facilities weren’t caring for the wounded soldiers adequately. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was neglected and mass infections were common. Thanks to Nightingale’s efforts, she helped reduce the death rate at the site from 42 to 2 percent.

After the war she came back to Great Britain and founded the Nightingale Training School in 1860 to train and educate women to become nurses. She also wrote a book called Notes on Nursing, which served as the cornerstone of the curriculum at the Nightingale School and other new nursing schools.

This book is considered a classic introduction to nursing. It was published at a time when the simple rules of health were only beginning to be known. The book did a lot to improve care in an era when hospitals were riddled with infection and many people viewed nursing as a lower-class occupation.

Not only was Nightingale a nursing pioneer, she was also a social reformer. She wanted to improve healthcare for all sections of British society regardless of their wealth or income, advocated for starvation relief in India, and expanded the role of women in the workforce.

Florence Nightingale did a lot of work expanding the scope of practice for nurses to provide better care for patients. Some of the issues she faced are similar to what nurses’ experience today. Nurses have to lobby their managers, employers and the government to expand their scope of practice to provide superior patient care in our healthcare facilities.

Let’s remember everything Nightingale fought for. We will all be healthier for it!


We Need A Stronger Homecare System

The demand on healthcare services is growing. According to the recent report published by the Conference Board of Canada in April 2015 called Understanding Health and Social Services for Seniors in Canada, it explains how the growing number of seniors are driving up demand for healthcare services.

The number of seniors who need healthcare is much higher than their younger counterparts. The amount of money spent on someone’s health needs in their 80s is much higher than someone in their 20s, 30s or 40s. And the number of seniors is growing.

In 1971, 8 percent of Canadians were 65 and older. In 2011 that number increased to 15 percent. By 2036 that number is projected to increase to a whopping 25 percent. Not only does that mean the number of Canadians who require large amounts of health spending is going to increase, the number people who are of working age (ages 15 to 64) is dropping. That means we have a smaller tax base to raise the money we need to properly care for our growing senior’s health needs. Right now there are 5 working Canadians for every senior. By 2030 that number will drop by nearly half to 2.7.

That’s why we need a stronger homecare system to look after the needs of our aging population. SEIU Healthcare has recently launched a campaign called Rise for Homecare. As demand for homecare grows, we need to build a homecare system that looks after our seniors properly.

Rise with us. Rise for Homecare!


May 10 – World Lupus Day


We’ve all heard of lupus, yet very few of us know what it is or what the symptoms are, never mind that there is an actual day set aside for awareness of this serious disease. World Lupus Day began 10 years ago by an international steering committee representing lupus organizations from 13 different nations They issued a  Proclamation as a  call to action for governments around the world to increase their financial support for lupus research, awareness and patient services.

Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body) and can even cause death. The signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. With lupus, the immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue, causing inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body. Every day, more than 5 million people worldwide struggle with the often debilitating health consequences of lupus.

The facts

  • Lupus affects 1 in every 1000 Canadians
  • It is not contagious and no one knows for sure what causes it
  • Between the ages of 15-45, women are eight times more likely than men to get lupus. Before or after that age range, it affects both genders equally.

The symptoms & cure

Some people will have only a few of the many possible symptoms. Because it can target any of the body’s tissues, lupus is often hard to pin down or diagnose. That’s why it is called “the disease with 1000 faces”.

While there is no cure yet, with treatment most people with lupus can look forward to a normal life expectancy.