“Nurses do not want to be forced to choose”: the ONA on the shortage of protective masks

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LONDON, ONT. –
Half a million N95 masks will arrive in Ontario later this week, despite a battle with the United States government over the personal protective equipment (PPE) essential for frontline healthcare workers.

Premier Doug Ford said on Monday morning that “recent restrictions” on the Canada-US border have left the province with “about a week’s supply” of face masks.

Dr. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of health for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, says that manufacturing capacity in Canada is being reallocated to try to produce supplies dedicated to the fight against COVID-19.

Mackie, however, is concerned about possible shortages, “Particularly for masks, this will not be possible in time to respond to the shortages we currently have. “

Mackie says health care workers treat the sick and a mask can prevent them from spreading infection to the most vulnerable.

“If President Trump’s order is followed, for example, by 3M and the N95 masks, this will create a very difficult situation, potentially an untenable situation in Ontario hospitals.”

Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, is also concerned about PPE shortages.

“We are working together as a region in this part of the province, so what we have done is that we have taken all the supplies we have and have grouped them all across our region to make sure we are providing supplies to people. who need it the most. “

According to Kernaghan, based on current usage of the system as of Monday, “we currently have nearly two weeks of supply.”

“We will continue to try to find other suppliers for the supplies we need,” said Kernaghan. “The second strategy is to look at the storage of supplies to make sure people are using them carefully and not throwing them away when they can continue to use them. “

The third strategy is to save supplies like masks, which have been used, if they are deemed safe by scientists.

“It is suggested that we will be able to sterilize and reuse them. So we keep our masks to make sure that if science knows it is safe to sterilize them again, we will have a supply that we can re-sterilize and put back into production. “

Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) bargaining and registered nurse president James Murray told CTV News that concerns remain.

“Registered nurses and other health care providers at the London Health Sciences Center understand the need to keep PPE on, but ask us to wear masks for long periods of time and to reuse masks that are made for occasional use on the place of care. our patients at risk of cross-contamination; and nurses at risk of self-contamination. “

Murray continues that the ONA is optimistic that additional supplies of PPE will be available.

“We urge our government and our employer to implement mitigation strategies and to follow the recommendation of the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety to use an alternative to N95 respirators such as half-masks in elastomer, full-face respiratory masks or powered air-purifying respirators… RN’S does not want to be forced to choose between taking care of their patients or ensuring their personal safety. “

Kernaghan says from his perspective, “To try to plan the hospital capacity that will be there when the public needs it, we need the help of the public. The severity and extent of this virus will depend on the public’s attention to public health advice. “

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