TORONTO - Ontario hospital workers are calling for the right to refuse unsafe work following the release of a report on how the SARS crisis was handled.

Ontario Council of Hospital Unions president Michael Hurley says if health-care employees had the same right to refuse unsafe work as other Ontario workers, they could have forced the issue on the use of proper protective equipment.

Despite concerns that the precautions being taken weren't effective, Hurley says hospital staff were continually told that the measures that were in place were adequate.

He is urging the province to amend the Occupational Health and Safety Act, reform the joint occupational health and safety committee system and the labour ministry's enforcement powers, which failed during the outbreak.

Of the 375 people who fell ill with the deadly respiratory illness, 45 per cent of them were hospital staff and paramedics.

Two nurses and one doctor were among the 44 people who died from the disease which reached epidemic proportions between March and June 2003.