Message from the President: COVID update: PPE guidance, new H&S workshop and more

Publish date: Friday, November 20, 2020

COVID-19

Education

Health and safety

Health care

MNU President

Dear members,

Like you, I am gravely concerned about the rising COVID-19 case numbers in Manitoba and the unsustainable pressure being placed on our health system.

In every media interview and in public statements, I have called on Manitobans to heed the call of health care providers: Stay home, limit social contact to your own household, only go out for essentials, and wear a mask.

This is a very serious situation. We must work together to reduce the impact on our health care system, and I know nurses are united in sharing this message with our family, friends and colleagues.

It’s difficult to find words that will do justice to the challenges I know many of you are facing head on. I know these last few weeks and months have been harrowing, and MNU has stepped up our efforts to support you every way we can. I have been talking with frontline nurses, meeting with health officials and speaking out in the media every day during the surge. We will continue to advocate forcefully on your behalf.

At the same time, I am heartened by the resolve and dedication I have seen from so many nurses I have spoken with in recent weeks. Your commitment and professionalism in the face of these great challenges is beyond inspiring.

PPE reminders and clarification

Your health and safety at work continue to be our top priority. We are meeting with employers every day to hold them accountable on health and safety concerns, and ensure they are adhering to our Joint Statement and MOA on PPE. Please contact your local/worksite president or LRO if you are unable to resolve issues directly with your employer.

On that point, I want to share important details about our MOA and Joint Statement, as some employers have limited access to critical PPE. The terms of the MOA provide nurses the following rights:

  1. Nurses have the right to request a N95 when providing patient care to suspect or confirmed COVID-19 patients. If requested, it shall be automatically provided.
  2. Nurses performing a nasopharyngeal swab have the right to request a N95 should their Point-of-Care Risk Assessment (PCRA) suggest that an N95 or higher level of PPE is justified in the circumstances. Agreed upon guidelines are available in the Joint Statement (PDF). If requested, an N95 shall be automatically provided.
  3. In all other circumstances, including non-COVID-19 patients, a nurse has the right to request appropriate PPE including an N95 based on a PCRA, which should include the probability and frequency of AGMPs. If requested, it shall not be unreasonably denied.
  4. All Nurses present in a room where AGMPs are being performed on suspect or confirmed COVID-19 patients shall be provided with a N95.

We have heard of instances where nurses have been asked to submit documentation or explanations of their PCRA. In our view, the demand for onerous documentation or lengthy justification is a breach of the terms and conditions of the MOA. It is also inefficient, considering the alarming increase in nurses’ workloads.  

If you have requested an N95 and have been refused, discouraged, or asked to complete onerous, unwarranted documentation, please contact your local/worksite president or your LRO with details so that we can intervene.

If you are refused an N95 you may also consider a work refusal under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. A Nurse has the right to refuse to perform a specific job or task they believe is unsafe without being disciplined by the employer. The employer or supervisor may temporarily assign a new task to a worker while the right to refuse is being investigated, at no loss in pay. Safe Manitoba has guidelines on your rights and further COVID related information.

Also, a reminder that proper donning and doffing of PPE is critical to reduce the risk of infection. Shared Health has information and videos on donning and doffing (PDF).
 
FREE Virtual Workshop for MNU Members on health and safety

Due to increasing demand for more information on your rights at work we are also offering a repeat of our online education session: Your Health and Safety Rights Amid COVID-19.

The next session will be held Thursday, November 26, from 1700 to 1800 via ZOOM.

MNU Labour Relations Officers will highlight employer responsibilities and your rights under provincial workplace safety and health legislation. They will also outline how to bring forward a health and safety concern in your workplace, along with information on seeking accommodation and WCB reporting related to injury or illness due to COVID-19.

The session is FREE to MNU members.

REGISTER HERE

More information on health and safety.

Dedicated testing for Health Care Professionals

Government has announced a limited amount of dedicated COVID testing available for essential workers in Winnipeg, including nurses. Three sites are taking bookings: WRHA sites at 2735 Pembina Hwy. and 604 St. Mary’s Rd., as well as the WFPS training academy at 2546 McPhillips St.

Health-care workers needing a COVID-19 test can book an appointment by calling 1-855-268-4318 (toll-free). Individuals will need to show their professional identification at the testing site.

More information: Manitoba Expands Testing Access for Health-Care Workers and First Responders
 
Shift Premium MOA extended 7 days

Last week, we advised that MNU had entered a 7-day agreement with employers to offer a shift premium to nurses being redeployed. The original agreement was reached in an effort to avert the imposition of an Article 10 declaration by employers, which would significantly further disrupt nurses’ working conditions.

This agreement has now been extended another 7 days, until Friday, November 27th. Discussions continue with the employer group on an alternate and more equitable allotment of premiums. We will provide updates as information becomes available.

We understand the prospect of possible Article 10 invocations is concerning for members. To be clear: Employers must advise MNU if they invoke Article 10 and to date no employer has done so. It’s important to note that an Article 10 can be declared by individual employers, and even then, individual circumstances can vary considerably. More information is available here.

Mental Health

Nurse often put everyone else’s needs ahead of their own, but in the midst of everything happening in our workplaces and our personal lives, we need to find time to look after ourselves too. MNU has compiled some information, resources and diversions to support the mental health and wellness of nurses during these difficult times.

Nurse advocacy

On a final note, I want to applaud nurses for their ongoing advocacy. Many nurses have spoken out in recent weeks, and one group of nurses penned a letter that garnered over 1,500 signatures from their colleagues.

Nurses are the most trusted spokespeople in health, and when we use our voices responsibly, we can make a positive difference in the health care system. If you’re interested in speaking out, MNU has tips for advocating that can support your efforts.

Thank you for your advocacy and for your continued efforts in the face of so much adversity. We must continue to work together, and support each other, for the health of all Manitobans.

In solidarity,
Darlene Jackson
President
Manitoba Nurses Union

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