LONDON, ONT. -- The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) says the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is not living up to its responsibility to provide its members with personal protective equipment (PPE) in treating or screening suspected COVID-19 patients.

ONA Local 100 President James Murray calls it an “extreme error” that in late 2019, when the health community learned of the potential for a pandemic, LHSC did not acquire the necessary supplies to protect frontline health care workers.

He says 3,600 nurses at LHSC alone do not have access to fitted N95 respirators.

“This virus is spread through aerosolization - droplets in the air that can be inhaled - and the appropriate PPE for that would be an N95 mask at a minimum. Currently there’s a shortage of N95 masks.”

According to Murray, a clause requiring hospitals to be readily equipped with masks in the event of a pandemic has been written into their collective agreement since the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Peter Bergmanis, who represents the Ontario Health Care Coalition, said he’s been hearing a similar theme throughout the health care community.

“I’m just getting complaints, a lot of very concerned health care workers, ‘Where is our support?’”

No one from LHSC was available for an interview but the hospital provided the following statement on the matter from Neil Johnson, COO of LHSC:

“Our top priority is ensuring the safety of all patients, staff, physicians, and visitors at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and we want to reassure the public that we are providing our teams with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) in alignment with the Ontario Ministry of Health directive for COVID-19.

"With these directives for appropriate PPE use in place, our supplies – including N95 respirators – are meeting LHSC’s staff, physician, and patient needs at this time and we continue to work with our local and regional partners to ensure there is an adequate and sustained supply of PPE to keep our staff, physicians, and patients safe as we go forward.”