The following letter was sent to PEI Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather G. Morrison on April 3, 2020.
Dear Dr. Morrison:
On March 13th the PEI Nurses’ Union, the Union of Public Sector Employees, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the International Union of Operating Engineers called on the Government of PEI to uphold the “Precautionary Principle” when it comes to providing personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and all members who may be at risk.
PEINU, UPSE, CUPE, and IUOE continue to advocate that the science is not clear regarding droplet-versus-airbone spread of COVID-19. With conflicting scientific evidence of how COVID-19 is spread, the precautionary principle – to err on the side of caution- must be followed.
The PEI Nurses’ Union recognizes the critical importance of the point of care risk assessment (PCRA), an activity that is based on the individual health-care worker clinical and professional judgment, (i.e. knowledge, skills, critical thinking and education). All registered nurses and frontline health care providers at risk in their area of work are required to perform a point of care risk assessment.
It is the position of PEINU that if a registered nurse determines the protective equipment they have been provided is inadequate, given the patients/client/residents acuity, environment or other factors, they should be able to access higher level of PPE.
At a minimum, as required of and by employers, all employees must be equipped with PPE for contact and droplet precautions, including gloves, eye protection, isolation gowns and surgical/procedural masks, for which they also must be trained and drilled in safe use.
Airbone precautions and the use of respirators, N95 or higher, must be used and readily available (i.e. Not locked up) at all times in clinical areas considered aerosol- generating medical procedure ‘hot spots’(e.g. COVID -19 patients, ICU, ER, OR, PACU), regardless of the supply concerns.
It is imperative that all organizations and government work collaboratively to protect health-care workers and their patients/clients/residents from the spread of COVID-19. If health-care workers are safe and free of disease because they are protected, then it is safe for the public to access health care.
All health-care unions on PEI have been urging the government and health-care workplaces that all precautions must be followed, and protocols for PPE for all nurses and health-care providers must be implemented. Staff must be fully trained, equipped and supported. We are encouraging our government to do the right thing.
Recently, Nurses’ Unions in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario have signed Joint Agreements with their governments / employers on Health and Safety Measures, including Personal Protective Equipment. We too, are strongly advocating for a similar agreement
The PEI Nurses’ Union is speaking loud and clear, that protecting the health and safety of our nurses is paramount to preventing exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.
As always, looking forward to working with you and the PEI Government.
Mona O’Shea RN
President PEI Nurses’ Union
Cc: Premier Dennis King
Minister of Health and Wellness Hon. James Aylward
Minister Of Economic Growth Tourism and Culture Hon Matthew MAcKay
Health PEI, Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling
Health PEI, Chief Executive Officer Denise Lewis-Fleming