BCNU to Province: Adjust position on access to PPE as federal guidelines on COVID-19 transmission revised

THE BC Nurses’ Union said on Thursday that the recent move by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to update federal guidelines on COVID-19 transmission is validating concerns it had raised that nurses and all health care workers must have access to the highest level of PPE at all times when working through the pandemic.

“These new federal guidelines released by PHAC on airborne transmission confirm what we have been saying for the last nine months,” said BCNU President Christine Sorensen. “We know that the science around transmission is evolving rapidly and as a result, it is critical that nurses have timely and unrestricted access to appropriate PPE and are protected at the highest level. Unfortunately, at worksites around BC, this is just not the reality.”

Despite the government’s announcements of large procurements of PPE, including N95 respirators, gloves, masks and gowns, nurses continue to report being unable to access the equipment quickly and at their own discretion, including those working at sites where outbreaks have been declared.

As the province experiences a surge in hospitalizations and ICU admissions, BCNU is very concerned with the increased number of nurses who’ve been infected with COVID-19.

“It is unacceptable that after nine months into this pandemic, nurses and health care workers are still unable to access N95 respirators when caring for patients who are COVID-19 positive,” said Sorensen. “If the province indeed has large stockpiles of PPE, then why isn’t it ending up in the hands of those who require it to provide care safely and effectively?”

PHAC updated its guidelines on COVID-19 transmission on November 3, stating “the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols created when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts or talks.” Previous guidelines stated that the COVID-19 virus spread only through breathing in respiratory droplets, touching contaminated surfaces and through greetings that include close contact.