Nurses Call for Transparency on PPE Supply Levels

Publish date: Thursday, April 09, 2020

COVID-19

Health and safety

MNU President

Please accept the following statement from MNU President Darlene Jackson


“Yesterday, senior health officials appeared to confirm that Manitoba is running low on personal protective equipment (PPEs) for health care workers. This includes not only N95 masks -- which offer the best protection against airborne particles that may transmit COVID-19 -- but also basic supplies such as gloves and gowns.

First and foremost, this admission is troubling because it strongly suggests the province has insufficient supply stocks. Over the past month, MNU has received countless reports from nurses on the frontlines about lack of access to even basic PPEs.

However, it is also troubling because it directly contradicts assurances provided by Shared Health as recently as last week that the province had months of supplies on hand.

For weeks, MNU has been calling on the provincial government to provide greater transparency about PPE stock levels, and to enhance access for frontline workers. Instead of being upfront about the situation from the beginning, nurses' concerns were dismissed and assurances were repeatedly given to the public that workers do in fact have access to adequate PPEs.

On March 26, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said: "We do have an adequate supply for the next several months, but we are managing that inventory. It may feel to people who are working in their usual settings that there is not a plethora of stock everywhere, but that's on purpose. Early on we did see some theft and some hoarding, so we want to make sure that we have supplies that are necessary and needed for the appropriate situations."  This was reported by multiple media outlets.

On April 1, Siragusa confirmed that "Manitoba has supplies for weeks for some things and months for others, and more is on the way."

Similar comments have been made since and by other officials such as the Minister of Health, Seniors & Active Living.

Nurses understand that Manitoba is competing with jurisdictions across the world for PPE procurement. They are willing to follow all guidelines and policies provided by government and health officials as long as they understand the context and need to do so. 

As a growing number of health care workers and Manitobans are tested positive for COVID-19, it is essential that government share the facts about the situation. Transparency about PPE stock levels will validate the concerns we are hearing from nurses on the frontlines, and help us all work together to ensure any rationing that may be needed is done appropriately, and with every necessary precaution. This is being done in other provinces in Canada, including Alberta and Ontario. It's time for Manitoba to follow suit.

Nurses are on the frontline of the pandemic response. At minimum, Manitoba can provide greater transparency to ensure those on the frontlines have the contextual information required to understand the decisions made by government regarding their health and safety."

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