Coronavirus: Some nurses still don’t have proper PPE

OTTAWA – When news of the first COVID-19 cases began to emerge in Canada in early 2020, Linda Silas was one of the first to sound the alarm about ill-equipped healthcare workers. appropriate personal protection.

Despite early signs that the virus is spreading through droplets on surfaces, Silas, president of the Canadian Nurses Federation, called on health authorities to learn from the 2003 SARS outbreak. and take the utmost precautions.

Now she knows she was right – the virus spreads through the air – but she is still desperate to call for more protective equipment for nurses two years later.

Regional unions across the country report that nurses who have requested fit-tested respirators still fail to obtain in some cases, despite the Omicron variant being more transmissible. much more than previous variants.

The shortage of healthy nurses to tackle the large wave of the Omicron variant, she said, means hospitals and other health organizations have deployed nurses with confirmed cases of COVID-19. , but some are still not provided with suitable masks.

“These vulnerable patients can have a COVID-positive staff member treating them, and without the proper PPE it’s very dangerous,” she said.

Canada’s director of public health, Dr Theresa Tam, describes the spread of COVID-19 like a cloud of smoke coming out of someone’s mouth and nose. She and other health workers have suggested to the public to use masks more effectively to protect themselves.

Often in places like vaccine clinics, members of the public appear to be wearing more appropriate protective equipment than healthcare workers, says Silas.

Silas said in an interview with The Canadian Press. “In long-term care it’s a real fight, in community care it’s a real fight and in acute care it depends on where you work.”

Different hospitals seem to be taking different approaches when it comes to providing PPE to nurses, which doesn’t make sense, she said, “because science is science.”

Professor Anne Snowdon of the University of Windsor, a registered nurse who studies health systems and supply chains, said Canada’s supply chain is likely to be to blame.

“The problem has always been in the supply chain. The result of our supply chain constraints is the inability to access protective products that are so important in reducing the risk of transmission of this virus to the workforce. our operations and also our patients,” Snowdon said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

The tight supply of PPE may have been easier to understand in the early days of the pandemic, but critics like Silas question how Canada could still be in a similar situation in many parts of the health system. .

The answer, says Snowdon, is that the infrastructure is too poor in the first place.

“We’re building the bridges that we’re driving over,” she said.

In other sectors, like construction, essential workers will not be in a similar situation, Silas said, as they will have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions.

But healthcare workers cannot do so without the moral guilt of abandoning patients. She says the guilt is similar when nurses have to work 16- to 24-hour shifts or have to shoulder a large number of patients.

“It’s moral guilt that has put pressure on the healthcare workforce.”

This Canadian Press report was first published on January 14, 2022.


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