Front-line workers’ organizations issued a brutal warning on Tuesday that lives are at stake and called for more transparency and urgent federal action at a virtual meeting of the House of Commons health committee.
Committee members hold regular teleconference hearings on the government’s response to COVID-19.
Dr. Sandy Buchman, President of the Canadian Medical Association, said that Canada was caught off guard by the pandemic and that everyone is struggling to ensure that public health capacity can respond to an expected increase in Requirement.
Calling this a “bleak reality,” he said he heard from doctors that the insufficient supply of surgical masks, N95 respirators, face shields, gowns and gloves is even more alarming than initially thought.
“The price to pay for this uncertainty is weighing heavily on healthcare workers across the country,” he said.
” They are afraid. They are anxious. They feel betrayed. They don’t know what supplies are available. “
Buchman said he was concerned about keeping enough doctors and other health care professionals on the job, given the increased threats they face from illness and physical and mental exhaustion, and the risk that ‘They may refuse to work due to a lack of protective equipment.
Doctors working in hospitals treating COVID-19 do not know how long current supplies will last, and many are asked to ration or reuse supplies, he said, adding that anxiety is increased by a lack of information and transparency around inventories. .
“Lives are at stake”
“Asking healthcare workers to be on the frontline of this pandemic without the proper equipment is unacceptable. Shortages must be dealt with immediately and information on supplies must be disseminated. People’s lives are at stake, ”he said.
“Could we expect a firefighter to enter a burning building, risking his life, without adequate protective equipment to protect them? Doctors and other front-line health workers have a duty: they are ready to put themselves in danger. But they also have rights – and it’s their right to be protected when they put themselves at risk. ”
Dr. Alan Drummond of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians has also provided “disturbing” reports of shortages and the rationing of protective equipment.
“The pandemic has not reached its peak and the virus will be with us for a while. We must continue to develop our supply and distribution chains from coast to coast so that all front-line staff have the appropriate PPE to provide care safely, “he said.
Preserve masks per shift
Drummond said that “preservation” measures, such as limiting nurses to two masks per shift, could be considered rationing.
He also warned of “excessive anxiety” and said he hoped the government would keep its promise to provide more protective equipment and supplies.
Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, said she found it “striking” that just a few months ago, governments and managers referred to workers’ clinical and professional judgment to decide what was necessary to keep patients and workers safe – but now they “lock their personal protective equipment to keep them away from health care workers”.
“Faced with this level of uncertainty around a new coronavirus, especially around something as fundamental as how it spreads, we must start with the highest level of protection for healthcare workers – not the lowest, “she said.
“Front-line workers across the country who directly participate in the care of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients are not getting the PPE they need to do their jobs. It is simply outrageous and unacceptable in a world class health system like ours. ”
Silas said that, since its creation following the SARS epidemic, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not made workplace safety a priority and has not stopped thinking and protecting appropriately the health and safety of health care workers. ”
She said the government should use the emergency law to ensure supplies and equipment are deployed where they are needed across the country.
Buchman said he welcomed the government’s call to recruit retired professionals and others to help him in the battle against COVID-19, but also warned that seniors are at greater risk have severe symptoms if infected. He said this must be seen in the context of a shortage of PPE supplies.
“We have to be careful what we ask for,” he said.