April 07, 2020 (OTTAWA, ON) – As president of the union representing 200,000 nurses, and on behalf of close to one million health care workers across the country, Linda Silas is demanding that the federal government act urgently to provide optimal personal protective equipment – including N95 respirators or a higher level of protection – for all health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The call comes today as the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions and other stakeholders appear before a special session of the parliamentary health committee.
“It is simply outrageous that Canada is still failing to properly protect our health care workers from COVID-19, after months of repeated requests,” said Silas, who testified today as president of the CFNU. “We are calling for urgent action from the federal government to fix these critical flaws before it’s too late for health care workers.”
Federal guidelines fail to properly address the scientific uncertainty around how the virus is transmitted and the realities of frontline care, which don’t always allow workers to maintain physical distance from patients or take similar precautions. Currently, about 12 per cent of COVID-19 infections are occurring in health care facilities, and many health care workers are being impacted.
In her testimony, Silas called on Prime Minister Trudeau and parliamentarians to invoke measures in the Emergencies Act to enhance protections, and reminded parliamentarians that what happens in one province impacts the others.
The CFNU is asking the government to provide full protection for contact, droplet and airborne transmission – which requires a fitted N95 respirator at minimum – in “hot spots” that have a high level of exposure, such as intensive care units, operating rooms, emergency rooms and COVID-19 units.
“It is unacceptable to ask health care workers, our first line of defence, to sacrifice their safety today because Canada has failed to properly plan for the inevitability of another pandemic,” said Silas.
“It’s not too late to act and protect our health care workers – but we cannot delay. The federal government must make sure that all health care workers, from our cleaners to our respiratory therapists, go home safe and are able to keep fighting for all of us.”
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing nearly 200,000 nurses and student nurses, and advocating on key health priorities and federal engagement in public health care.
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