Atlantic health unions want answers on access to N95 respirator masks

Nova Scotia’s largest nurses’ union is calling on the province to formally agree to allow its workers to make the call on when they need to don tightly fitted, N95 respirator masks as they treat COVID-19 patients.

Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, says she wants an answer today on whether a written commitment will be provided.

Debbie Forward, the president of Registered Nurses’ Union Newfoundland and Labrador, says she made a similar request in a conference call with her province’s health officials last week.

Health workers in Alberta have already signed an agreement with health agencies.

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The Alberta memorandum notes that if a health-care worker determines “on reasonable grounds” that the N95 respirator is needed, they won’t be “unreasonably denied by their employer.”

Hazelton says her union hasn’t been told yet whether a shortage of masks is expected to occur when cases of the disease peak in Nova Scotia.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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