KITCHENER -- The Ontario Nurses’ Association is claiming victory in a court fight to give nurses in long-term care homes better access to personal protective equipment.

The ONA launched the court action following claims that some homes have been restricting or denying the use of PPE in their facilities, and in some cases, rationing the gear.

The homes named in the application include Anson Place in Hagersville, Hawthorne Place Care Centre in North York, and Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto.  A separate application was filed against the operators of Henley Place in London.

On Thursday, Ontario Superior Court Justice E.M. Morgan ordered the operators not to impede the nurses’ professional opinions on when PPE are needed.

“Nurses are not to be impeded in making an assessment and determination at point of care as to what PPE or other measures are appropriate and required,” wrote Justice Morgan in the decision.

He also wrote that the operators, employees and those acting under their instruction “are ordered to provide nurses working in their respective facilities with access to fitted N95 facial respirators and appropriate PPE when assessed by a nurse at a point of care to be appropriate and required,” as set out in directives by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The ONA said in a statement on Thursday evening they are relieved by the decision. They say the ruling means homes are required to respect the professional and clinical judgement of nurses when deciding how to protect themselves.

“I am feeling much more optimistic about the protections for nurses and professionals in long term care,” Vicki McKenna, the president of the ONA, told CTV Kitchener over the phone.

“This is about yes, worker safety, but also resident safety, and that’s what we have to focus on,” said McKenna.

“I certainly hope that this, this ruling in particular, will bring down the numbers. The Premier talks about a wildfire, it’s a raging fire that’s burning in long term care right now and we have to do everything we can to stop it,” said McKenna.

The lawyer representing the homes told court on Wednesday when deciding who gets masks - and when - management has to weigh need, conservation and supply.

“My clients feel strongly that they have complied and they have done everything they can and beyond,” said lawyer Ian Dick.

Responsive Management Inc, which was also named in the court filing, says they’re comfortable with the ruling.

“All staff across our homes had access to the necessary PPE as outlined by the stringent safety requirements from the experts at Public Health and the Ministry of Health,” said Linda Calabrese, the Vice-President of Operations.