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Tense times for health care workers in new reality
LONDON, ONT. -- Work refusals by 11 nurses at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) over access to personal protective equipment have now been resolved, but health care workers are still facing daily anxiety.
That’s according to one physician at a southwestern Ontario hospital, which he did not want identified, who has been spending some of his time in a COVID-19 assessment centre.
Dr. Chris Foerster tells CTV News that some health care workers are potentially putting themselves at risk by following a directive to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks.
“We’re seeing health care workers on the front lines taking off masks and then putting that same dirty mask back on again. And in doing so they risk contaminating themselves with whatever the mask was there to protect against.”
His comments come as the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) announced that two nurses at LHSC's University Hospital campus, along with nine nurses at the London Regional Cancer Centre, refused to perform their jobs on Monday when they were denied use of an N95 respirator mask.
Ricki Leigh Dolsen, the vice president of Health and Safety for ONA local 100, became emotional when explaining what nurses are going through daily.
“They’re essentially going into that room and making a choice. The employer has put them in a position to make a choice over their safety and over the care of their patient.”
The agreement between ONA and the hospital came after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health issued a directive that nurses should be able to use their own professional judgement when it comes to use of PPE.
ONA Local 100 President James Murray said nurses are trying to conserve the equipment, while doing their job as best they can.
“I think we look at what best practice and infection control used to be, and that was that you would never use a mask between patients. Now that is something that is required…From a nursing perspective am I comfortable with that? No. But we’re working in a different reality right now.”
In the meantime, Foerster stressed that front-line staff in hospitals are doing everything they can to prepare for a COVID-19 patient onslaught.
“But even with everything that we’ve done the system still does risk being overwhelmed. And I think that’s why the advice still to the public needs to be to stay home if at all possible and help flatten that curve.”