A labour ministry tribunal in the Quebec province of Canada has backed the Hull Hospital's decision to exclude an overweight nurse from its operating room because she sweated too much.
Hospital spokesman Sylvain Dube said Tuesday the woman was fired in December 2005 for "professional reasons," but added he could not elaborate because of an agreement between the nurse and the hospital.
The nurse, who is no longer employed by the hospital, was not identified. The tribunal released its decision last week after hearing a grievance in 2006 and 2007 filed by the Federation interprofessionnelle de la sante du Quebec.
Charles Saucier, the hospital lawyer, said expert evidence presented at the labour tribunal hearing showed the woman's excessive sweating increased the risk of bacterial infection among surgical patients.
"The hospital refused to allow the nurse to continue working in the operating room - it didn't fire her because she was sweating excessively," Saucier said.
"She weighed more than 300 pounds and had a problem with excessive sweating. An operating room is supposed to be a sterile environment without bacteria. There was an excessive amount of bacteria in the operating room air because of her sweating, creating a risk of infection."
Federation spokeswoman Sandra Gagne said the union could not comment on the case until it hears from its lawyer.
The union has 30 days in which it can file an appeal.
Marc Desjardins, a microbiologist from the Ottawa Hospital testified that the woman's sweating increased bacteria levels in the operating room at the Hull Hospital.
Saucier said he could not say what caused the perspiration problem or whether any medical treatment was possible because he is not a doctor. He said the hospital tried to help and the nurse frequently changed her clothing during surgery, but she continued to perspire and her clothing remained wet.
Sean Dillon-Fordyce, a spokesman for the Canadian Federation of Nurses, said he could not comment directly on the case, but added obesity and other health problems are common among nurses because of stress and staff shortages.
A 2007 Health Canada study of Canadian nurses said one third of nurses reported that health problems made their workload difficult to handle.
One quarter of nurses reported chronic back problems and higher proportions than the general public experienced depression, migraine headaches, high blood pressure, asthma and thyroid disorders.
The Fédération interprofessionelle de la santé du Quebec had proposed adopting a more flexible schedule and providing special scrubs that would prevent excessive sweating.