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Front line workers asked to reuse masks despite poor PPE quality, lack of supplies: nurses' union

Last Updated May 4, 2020 at 3:09 pm PDT

FILE - Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul's hospital in downtown Vancouver, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Nurses' union says members are being asked to wear reused, or even expired, personal protective equipment

Since March 20 the BCNU has received over 1,700 complaints from members

Health care workers in B.C. say they the lack of PPE is putting nurses at risk

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The BC Nurses’ Union is claiming its members are being asked to wear reused, or even expired, personal protective equipment, putting its health care workers at risk.

President of the nurses union, Christine Sorensen, says the union has received 1,700 complaints filed from members addressing a deeply concerning situation.

“It is unfortunate, but throughout the pandemic, I’ve been hearing stories from across the province — every corner of the province, even our large centers, right to our small, rural, and remote sites — that are having difficulties accessing personal protective equipment [or have] inadequate supplies of personal protective equipment,” she tells NEWS 1130.

Sorensen adds workers have received gowns at their worksites, but claims they aren’t fully covering people’s bodies, which, she says, is another way members are being put at risk.

“We have had situations where nurses had to bring your own personal protective equipment and to make sure that they’re safe. And so we’re very concerned with how the employer is handling the personal protective equipment in the province for all nurses and health care workers and access to that and the quality of the personal protective equipment,” she says.

Sorensen says she’s shocked some grocery stores have better Plexiglas protection than is set up in some emergency rooms.

“Personal protective equipment is one of the last lines of defence that the nurse has to ensure their own personal health and safety when they’re caring for patients with an infectious disease like COVID,” Sorensen says.

Apart from COVID-19, Sorensen says workers are at risk of contracting other infectious diseases, like tuberculosis.

“We’re really concerned about what we’re seeing now, wondering if this has been going on before. It is a pattern of safety violations that we have been seeing,” she says. “We do have a lot of concern that nurses’ health and safety is being placed at risk.”

With this week marking National Health and Safety week, Sorensen says it’s a good time to remember employers are responsible for providing safe working conditions for employees, and that includes access to PPE.