Father Victor Fernandes puts on personal protection equipment prior to visiting with a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing a number of people to start preparing for the worst-case scenario.While drafting a will is a good step, experts say it’s equally important to lay out your wishes for end-of-life treatment and name someone who can make decisions about your personal health care if you’re unable to.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Give adequate, quality supply of personal protective gear to nurses: B.C. union

Roughly 21 per cent of all COVID-19 cases, or 428 health-care workers were infected with the virus as of April 28

Nurses already lacking an adequate supply of personal protective equipment have sometimes been given masks with straps that don’t tie or gowns that don’t fully cover them, the head of the B.C. Nurses’ Union says.

Christine Sorensen said Monday the supply issue is affecting nurses in every health authority and has prompted 1,700 complaints to the union from its members across the province.

She said some nurses are expected to use one mask during a 12-hour shift, but that goes against normal procedures in protecting workers from infectious diseases.

Some hospitals keep personal protective equipment at only a central location where nurses are expected to sign it out as strict counts of N95 masks are kept, Sorenson said.

“It should be on the unit where they are providing care. For a nurse to have to go and look for personal protective equipment, that delays patient care,” she said.

“We have asked for it to be returned to every unit so nurses have unfettered access and they do not have to ask another person, a manager, on the floor if they can access an N95 mask,” she said.

“If they are having difficulty accessing personal protective equipment, we are asking them to advise the union, advise the nurses, make sure they’re transparent and tell us exactly what the supply is,” Sorensen said of health authorities.

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry released a COVID-19 report on Monday, saying 428 health-care workers in the province were infected with the virus as of April 28, reflecting 21 per cent of cases.

Henry did not provide a breakdown of which health-care workers have become infected but Sorensen said all of them should go to work knowing they’ll have the right equipment to safely do their job.

The Health Ministry did not immediately provide a response to the union’s concerns about personal protective equipment.

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses, said most provinces appear to have enough personal protective equipment but some of it may be saved because of fears about a second wave of the virus, which amounts to “bad practice.”

“Our major concern is the fact that we’re not dealing adequately with the front-line workers of this wave. We’re thinking of tomorrow but we have to protect the workers of today,” he said.

“Health-care unions are working with employers and government to get more supply to the provinces, to get it into the hospitals and the long-term care facilities and home care.”

Reusing masks is common and unacceptable though face shields can be reused if washed properly, Silas said, adding lessons about preparedness for a pandemic weren’t learned from previous experiences and plenty of warnings.

“The system should have been ready after SARS, after H1N1, after Ebola. We went through all the procedures but our system wasn’t ready.”

However, being prepared for the next wave and the next pandemic will be critical because the health-care system can’t afford to be without workers who are at risk of becoming ill, she said.

“When they’re infected they’re off for 14 days minimum. Just that threat and that cost to the health-care system will wake up many bean counters.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MP Morrison pushes for accountability following federal fiscal update

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian says it is time to restart the economy

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

RDCK to implement new emergency alert notification system

System also includes sends alerts for water advisories

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

Tree planters get help with COVID-19 protective measures

Ottawa funds extra transportation, sanitizing for crews

Trudeau apologizes for not recusing himself from WE decision

He says his and his family’s longtime involvement with the WE organization should have kept him out of the discussions

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

New comet appears in pre-dawn sky above Cranbrook

Neowise can be seen without a telescope over the next couple of weeks

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Washington’s NFL team drops ‘Redskins’ name after 87 years

The franchise was given the name back in 1933, when it was still in Boston

Most Read