MEDIA RELEASE: MNU Calls for Immediate Action to Enhance Safety for Nurses and Contain Outbreaks in Health Facilities

Publish date: Thursday, November 05, 2020

COVID-19

Health and safety

Health care

November 5, 2020
For Immediate Release

 

MNU Calls for Immediate Action to Enhance Safety for Nurses and Contain Outbreaks in Health Facilities

 

In light of worsening outbreaks in health facilities across the province, and the Public Health Agency of Canada changing its COVID-19 guidelines to include aerosolized transmission, the Manitoba Nurses Union is calling for immediate enhancements to Personal Protective Equipment and testing standards.

MNU is aware of at least 75 nurses who have tested positive for COVID-19 facilities during this second wave, including 27 at St. Boniface Hospital and 22 at Victoria Hospital.

“The number of infections among nurses and other health care professionals is absolutely unacceptable. It’s abundantly clear that the current standards are no longer adequate. For months, we have been calling on the Pallister government and Shared Health to make improvements, but they have refused to act,” said MNU President Darlene Jackson.

MNU is calling on Shared Health to make N95 masks the minimum standard in outbreak situations and when treating suspect or confirmed COVID-19 patients. After filing numerous grievances during the first wave, MNU reached a settlement with Shared Health in July that ensures nurses have a right to access N95s upon request after completing a Point-of-Care Risk Assessment and when working with suspected or confirmed patients infected with COVID-19. However, MNU has received multiple reports from nurses across the health system that employers are pressuring them not to use N95s, that the masks are being rationed, and that nurses are being required to reuse dirty masks.

“Nurses and other health care professionals are the last line of defense against COVID-19. The government has a legal and ethical obligation to protect them so that we can meet the surge and care for Manitobans. Shared Health must immediately enhance PPE and safety standards for nurses and all health care professionals, and government needs to step up and provide the necessary resources to make it happen.”

Further, MNU is calling for immediate testing of all patients and staff in care settings where unexpected COVID positive patients have been identified. MNU has received multiple reports from facilities experiencing outbreaks that nurses are being told they don’t need to be tested, only to seek a test anyway and discover they are COVID-positive. Many outbreaks at facilities have yet to be contained, and new outbreaks at HSC are now cause for greater concern.

“The Health Minister and senior officials keep burying their heads in the sand, trying to minimize the seriousness of the situation. The response to date has been wholly inadequate and the situation is clearly dangerous. Health facilities need to be moving much faster to support health care staff and their patients,” said Jackson. “Lives are at stake, and when nurses get sick, it only puts more strain on the system. We need to improve the standards immediately.”

MNU represents over 12,000 nurses of all designations across Manitoba.

 

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