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Union calls for enhanced PPE, testing protocols

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As health-care facilities across the province continue to battle COVID-19 outbreaks, the Manitoba Nurses Union is calling for immediate improvements to personal protective equipment and other safety measures.

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This article was published 06/11/2020 (815 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As health-care facilities across the province continue to battle COVID-19 outbreaks, the Manitoba Nurses Union is calling for immediate improvements to personal protective equipment and other safety measures.

“The number of infections among nurses and other health care is absolutely unacceptable. It’s abundantly clear that the current standards are no longer adequate. For months, we have been calling on the Pallister government and Shared Health to make improvements, but they have refused to act,” MNU president Darlene Jackson said in a statement Thursday.

According to the statement, at least 75 positive COVID-19 cases have been identified among nurses working at facilities dealing with outbreaks during recent months, including 27 at St. Boniface Hospital and 22 at Victoria Hospital in Winnipeg.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses Union, poses for a portrait in front of the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Wednesday. The Manitoba Nurses Union is calling for immediate improvements to personal protective equipment and other safety measures. (Winnipeg Free Press)

MNU is asking Shared Health to make N95 masks the minimum requirement for health-care professionals working in outbreak situations and treating confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Grievances against Shared Health were previously filed by MNU earlier in the pandemic. In July, a settlement was reached that should ensure nurses have the right to access N95 masks upon request after completing a Point-Of-Care risk assessment or when working with patients that are confirmed as or suspected of having COVID-19.

Since then, MNU claims it has received multiple reports from nurses saying they’re being pressured by employers not to use N95s, that they’re being required to rewear dirty masks and that masks are being rationed.

“Nurses and other health-care professionals are the last line of defence against COVID-19. The government has a legal and ethical obligation to protect them so that we can meet the surge and care for Manitobans,” Jackson said. “Shared Health must immediately enhance PPE and safety standards for nurses and all health-care professionals, and government needs to step up and provide the necessary resources to make it happen.”

In addition to greater access to PPE, MNU is also calling for immediate COVID-19 testing for patients and staff in settings where an unexpected case of the virus has been detected, citing reports from nurses who say they were told they didn’t need to be tested for COVID-19 while working at facilities with outbreaks, only to seek testing anyways and find out they have COVID-19.

The MNU represents more than 12,000 nurses across Manitoba.

The Sun reached out to Shared Health and Prairie Mountain Health for comment but did not receive replies in time for publication.

» eklatt@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @emdashklatt

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