UPDATED May 5 - 'Health care workers providing direct care – in the same room or in close contact – to SRI patients are advised to wear properly fit-tested N-95 respirators.'
Toronto (5 May 2009) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is urging health care workers and members of the public to take note of concerns raised by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) about an outbreak of Severe Respiratory Illness (SRI) called H1N1 (previously called "Swine flu"), that began in Mexico, is spreading globally, and has now arrived in several Canadian provinces including Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.
Governments in a growing number of countries are monitoring the situation closely. Some have already issued travel warnings to the U.S. and Mexico and are gearing up for additional responses, including quarantine measures, as required.
NUPGE and its Component unions across the country represent over 60,000 health professionals in over 200 disciplines, including everything from Lab, Xray and EMS professionals to Respiratory Technologists and Pharmacists.
NUPGE has produced a Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist - pdf for its health care members, which outlines the necessary steps and equipment required for health care workers to appropriately plan and protect themselves.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) has also sent out an advisory to members of Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) and to all Health and Safety Representatives. Other links with additional information are also available on OPSEU's Health and Safety webpage.
"Please ensure that your OPSEU members of JHSCs or Health and Safety Representatives in smaller workplaces receive this memo," says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
"Advise them to request their employer to convene an emergency JHSC meeting. Advise them that OPSEU is regularly updating the Swine Flu information on its website. And advise them that if they have questions and concerns that they can’t address internally at their workplace, to call or email OPSEU’s Health and Safety Unit at Head Office."
Dr. Donald Low, medical director of Ontario's public health laboratories, said he suspects additional cases will quickly be identified across the country.
"The cases that have emerged so far in Mexico are "just the tip of the iceberg.... I don’t think anybody's thinking that this is not across Canada," he said.
An updated (May 3) Important Health Notice regarding the outbreak has been issued by the Ontario ministry of health.
It describes symptoms of the illness, screening questions to use in hospital emergency departments and precautions for health care workers to take." If cases of SRI are discovered in Ontario, health care workers providing direct care – in the same room or in close contact – to SRI patients are advised to wear properly fit-tested N-95 respirators," OPSEU says." All other health care workers are to follow routine practices. Patients who meet the definition of SRI are to be cared for in a single room."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE