'Nurses do not want to be forced to choose': ONA on protective mask shortages
LONDON, ONT. -- Half-a-million N95 masks will arrive in Ontario later this week, despite a battle with the U.S. government over the much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line healthcare workers.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford revealed Monday morning that the “recent restrictions” at the U.S.-Canada border left the province with “roughly a one-week supply” of facial masks.
Dr. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of heath for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, says the manufacturing capacity in Canada is being re-assigned to try and produce dedicated supplies to battle COVID-19.
Mackie though, is concerned about possible shortages, “In particular for masks, that won't be possible in time to meet the supply shortages that we have now.”
Mackie says health care workers are treating the most ill and having a mask can prevent them from spreading an infection to the most vulnerable.
“If the order by President Trump is heeded by 3M for example and N95 masks that will create a very difficult situation, potentially an untenable situation in Ontario hospitals.”
Dr. Gillian Kernaghan, president and CEO St. Joseph’s Health Care London, is also concerned about PPE shortages.
“We work together as a region in this part of the province, so what we have done is we have taken all the supplies that we have and we have pooled them together across our region to make sure that we are getting the supplies to the people who need them most.”
Kernaghan says based on current utilization across the system as of Monday, “We have close to two weeks supply at the present time.”
“We will continue to try and source other providers for the supplies that we need,” Kernaghan says. “The second strategy is to look at conservation of the supplies to make sure that people are using them carefully and not discarding them when they could continue to use them.”
The third strategy is saving supplies like masks, that have been used, if deemed safe to do so by scientists.
“There is some suggestion that we will be able to sterilize those and reuse them so we are keeping our masks to make sure that if the science knows that it’s safe to re-sterilize them we will have a supply that we can re-sterilize and put back into production.”
Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) bargaining president and registered nurse, James Murray, tells CTV News in a statement concerns remain.
“Registered nurses and other health care providers at London Health Sciences Centre understand the need to conserve PPE, however asking us to wear masks for extended periods of time and reuse masks that are manufactured for one-time, point-of-care use, puts our patients at risk of cross contamination and RN’s at risk of self contamination.”
Murray continues that the ONA is optimistic that additional supplies of PPE will become available.
“We urge our government and our employer to implement mitigation strategies and follow the recommendation of the National Institute for Occupation Health and Safety to use alternative to N95 respirators such as elastomeric half mask, full face piece air purifying respirators or powered air purifying respirators…RN’S do not want to be forced to choose between caring for their patients or their personal safety.”
Kernaghan says from her perspective, “In trying to plan the hospital capacity that will be there when the public needs it, we need the public's help. How severe and how widespread this virus will be will depend on the public paying attention to the advice from public health.”