The B.C. Nurses’ Union (BCNU) is concerned for the safety of healthcare workers, as personal protective equipment (PPE) supply remains low across the province.
Since March 20, the BCNU said it has received more than 1,700 complaints from nurses about inadequate PPE, such as gowns, face shields, gloves and N95 respirator masks.
“We’re now being redirected to use personal protective equipment more than once, essentially, reuse it throughout the day,” said Christine Sorensen, president of the BCNU. “This means that nurses are taking off, or doffing a mask, and reapplying it. Some are leaving it on pieces of paper towel outside their break room.”
Nurses have also been asked to share equipment, Sorensen added.
“We have also seen shortages where nurses have been asked to use the same goggles, same face shield between nurses,” she said. “[They] wipe it down but they’re asked to share personal protective equipment and that has never been considered practical or safe in the past and we question why that would be now.”
The dangers of not having the PPE required to do the job, Sorensen explained, are significant.
“If we do not have the personal protective equipment that we need to be able to do our job safely, we too, will likely become infected with COVID-19,” she said.
New modelling numbers released by the province on Monday show 21 per cent of COVID-19 cases reported in B.C. as of April 28 are healthcare workers.
“Many of these people were affected at work, either from a colleague or acquiring this from caring for patients with COVID-19,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, on Monday. She added that some of these cases, however, may be from travelling, family contact cases or attending conferences.
The Ministry of Health responded to BCNU’s concerns in the following statement provided to CHEK News:
“Healthcare workers are the frontline in our battle against COVID-19. They are responding courageously to monumental challenges during this unprecedented time – their safety is our fundamental concern.
That’s why we:
- made the difficult decision to postpone elective surgeries in preparation for COVID-19 and reduced hospital acute-care capacity to about 60%. This protects healthcare workers, patients and the public;
- undertook a significant and active effort to acquire additional supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) through all available options.
We will continue to stand with and protect our healthcare workers, with the support of all British Columbians.”