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Canada’s nurses eager for more consultation on patient safety regulations

Ottawa, December 6, 2013 — Overall, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) applauds the new federal patient safety legislation — Bill C-17, theProtecting Canadians from Unsafe Drugs Act(Vanessa’s Law) — because it will help improve patient safety. The legislation’s most positive developments are new powers for the mandatory reporting of patient safety incidents and stronger consumer protections. CNA is also eager to work with the federal government to bring more precision to a few key areas.

“Registered nurses spend more time with Canadian patients than any other providers,” said CNA president Barb Mildon. “We are a consistent link in the patient safety chain, and that’s why these legislative protections are important to our profession. This is a prime opportunity for frontline providers and governments to come together and improve the health, safety and well-being of Canadians.”

Prior to the bill’s introduction, CNA suggested that standardization measures be mandated to help prevent human error; for example, designing medication delivery systems — including syringes — that are customized for their intended specific use. Likewise, different medications can sometimes be packaged in ways that make them hard to tell apart. Ensuring that the labeling and packaging of medications are better distinguished is another way of reducing errors with potential life-threatening consequences.

 “We think standardization is a gap in this new legislation that must be addressed,” said Mildon. “Regardless of what kind of car you drive, the gas and brake pedals are always in the same place. Imagine what would happen if that wasn’t the case. Standardization measures promote consistency in the labelling and packaging of medications and in the way medical devices and equipment are used. The more consistency we have in the tools nurses use to deliver health care, the better chance we have to reduce errors and make sure that all Canadians have access to the same high-quality care.”

Continued consultation with registered nurses will also be important as the bill’s regulations and processes are developed. It is essential to guide the mandatory reporting system that health-care institutions will be implementing to ensure they align well with the reality of nursing workloads. In addition, reporting mechanisms for patient safety incidents that occur outside of hospitals, in settings such as home care and long term care, are an area of the legislation that needs further consideration.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing more than 150,000 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca