This FAQ addresses questions regarding the recent Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with respect to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other health and safety measures.
Q: What is the most significant change for this new Memorandum with respect to PPE?
A: Rather than the Nurse having to request an N95 when dealing with a COVID-19 suspect or positive patient, with this MOA the Employer is required to provide an N95 to a Nurse in the following circumstances:
- Nurses providing direct patient care to Orange or Red zone patients;
- Nurses performing a nasopharyngeal swab test;
- Nurses present in a room where an aerosol generating medical procedure (“AGMP”) is being performed on a Green zone patient in the first fourteen (14) days;
- Nurses providing direct patient care to undifferentiated patients;
- Nurses in Emergency Departments and Urgent Care, except those Nurses in a designated area for lower acuity patients that have been screened for COVID-19 at triage and designated Green;
- Nurses present during labour and delivery, except where the patient has tested negative for COVID-19 on the same day or the previous day.
Q: What if a Nurse believes an N95 is required, but in a situation not included in the scenarios listed above?
A: A Nurse is still able to access an N95, based on their Point of Care Risk Assessment. Such circumstances include but are not limited to situations where a Nurse is unable to maintain six feet of distance to screen for COVID-19.
Q: I haven't yet been fit tested for an N95, what should I do?
A: The Employers have committed to substantially complete fit testing all front-line health care workers in early January. If a Nurse is unable to get fit tested, contact your local president or LRO for further assistance.
Q: Is a Nurse compensated if required to complete fit testing when not on duty?
A: Yes. Nurses who are unable to complete fit testing during regularly scheduled work hours are to be compensated as per their respective collective agreement.
Q: What about access to N95s for Home Care or Public Health Nurses working in the community?
A: Home Care and Public Health Nurses are entitled to be issued two N95s to keep with them during a shift. These Nurses will document their use of N95s, in accordance with the PPE requirements. If a home care or public health Nurse requires an additional N95, the Nurse shall be provided with a N95.
Q: Despite the recent MOA, my Employer has discouraged/dissuaded me from using an N95, and/or hasn't provided them when required to do so. What should I do?
A: The Employer is prohibited from dissuading Nurses from using N95s or encouraging them to refuse using an N95. Contact your local president and/or LRO and provide as much detail as possible, i.e. what were the circumstances, what the Nurse was told, by whom etc. Once notified by the MNU, the Employer is provided a reasonable opportunity to expeditiously correct the problem. If the issue persists the MNU can opt to pursue a grievance as appropriate.
Q: If a procedure mask is to be used, as opposed to an N95, what type of procedure mask is the Employer required to provide?
A: Only level 3 standard medical/procedure masks will be provided for use by health care workers, (as opposed to level 1 or 2) unless a Nurse specifically determines their choice is to instead wear a level 1 or 2 procedure mask (see question and answer below). Level 1 or 2 masks can be used by patients.
Q: Does a Nurse have to wear an N95 if the Nurse doesn't believe it is required?
A: Unless performing an AGMP, or mandated by the Employer to wear an N95, a Nurse may decline an N95 based on their PCRA, which is to be exercised independently and free from undue influence. A Nurse can also choose to wear a level 1 or 2 procedure masks as opposed to a level 3 procedure mask, again based on their independently exercised PCRA.
Q: Nurses working in access centers have not always been able to distance appropriately when screening patients. Was that addressed in this MOA?
A: Yes access centers and community health offices must ensure that wherever reasonably possible remote and/or distanced screening of patients is to be conducted.
Q: What about reprocessed N95s or other expired N95/procedure masks, can those be used?
A: Only in an extreme shortage where all other avenues of access to N95s or other equivalent or higher standards of protection are unavailable. Reprocessed or expired masks are only to be used as a last resort. Prior to the reuse of reprocessed N95s the PPE committee and the MNU shall be provided advance notice of the distribution. The MNU maintains jurisdiction to challenge the use of reprocessed N95.
Q: There have been some discussions about elastomeric half masks or Precision ADM masks being used in health care, what is happening with that?
A: Discussions continue at the PPE committee surrounding protocols for the use of these masks. Workplace Safety and Health is considering submissions surrounding approvals of cleaning procedures. We will update when more information becomes available.
If you have questions, please contact your Labour Relations Officer.