News Releases

News Release - Canada and Manitoba

January 6, 2021


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Agreement Allows Workers Caring for COVID-Positive and Suspect Patients to Select Protection They Need: Stefanson

Specialized personal protective equipment (PPE) is becoming easier for health-care workers to access when delivering care in settings that pose an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 thanks to an agreement that allows staff to select the most appropriate protection they require, Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson announced today.
“Ensuring health-care workers have access to the supplies they need to keep themselves safe while providing care to COVID-positive or suspect Manitobans has been a priority throughout our pandemic response,” said Stefanson. “The skills and training of health-care workers and their experiences over the past nine months have equipped them with the ability to determine the appropriate type of PPE they need when caring for patients who have – or who are suspected of having – COVID-19.”  
The policy is part of a new agreement between the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) and Shared Health, on behalf of all employers within Manitoba’s health system. The agreement requires health system operators, including health regions as well as hospitals, personal care homes and home care providers, to ensure that staff working with COVID-positive and suspect patients, residents and/or clients in environments where the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is higher are able to access an N95 respirator. The agreement also gives staff working in these higher-risk settings the choice to continue wearing a procedure mask, where appropriate.
“This agreement is the result of significant effort and hard work by MNU and health system employers to ensure nurses are able to easily access the PPE that will help to keep them safe from COVID-19,” said Stefanson. “Our government appreciates the efforts of all health-care workers and is pleased to extend the protections provided by this new agreement to all health-care workers.”
Nurses working in designated COVID units and ICUs, emergency departments and urgent care centres, in home care and public health, in labour and delivery areas and those performing swabs at COVID-19 testing sites are all covered by the agreement. The policy is being extended to all health-care workers providing direct care to someone who has or is suspected of having the virus. 
Health system leadership have worked closely with experts in infection prevention and control, Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health (OESH), and supply chain and logistics to ensure the stability of Manitoba’s PPE stockpile has been balanced with the responsibility to protect all health-care workers, said Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer, Shared Health.
“We have been concerned by reports of some health-care workers experiencing challenges or delays in accessing N95s when they are requested, and have adapted our protocols to ensure staff are able to more easily access the protection they determine is required,” said Siragusa. “While the importance of completing a point-of-care risk assessment in advance of every patient interaction is unchanged by this agreement, we are confident Manitoba’s highly skilled and professional workforce is equipped to select the PPE they need for each patient encounter while remaining mindful of the importance of preserving our stockpile of PPE for the duration of the pandemic.” 
A provincial fit-testing initiative is ongoing to accelerate fit testing for N95 respirators being completed by Manitoba’s health-care operators. All health-care workers providing direct care in all health-care settings are expected to be fit tested by the end of next month. Approximately 55 per cent of acute care and long-term care staff have already been fit tested as part of the initiative.
Manitoba’s current stockpile of PPE is stronger than it was earlier in the pandemic when supply chain interruptions limited availability of many supplies, including N95s, Stefanson noted, adding at present, Manitoba has at least a 90-day supply of most items of PPE.  
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