Health care workers need protection during pandemic | National Union of Public and General Employees

Health care workers need protection during pandemic

NUPGE and HSABC release new research showing higher precautions needed.

Ottawa (19 Mar. 2020) ― The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) and Health Sciences Association of BC (HSA) released today a research paper focused on respiratory protection for health workers caring for COVID-19 patients.

Stock of personal protective equipment is low and usage guidelines are inconsistent

“Health care workers around the world are reporting that personal protective equipment guidelines are inconsistent and in short supply. As this pandemic hits our health care system in Canada, the priority must be to keep our health care workers healthy so they can provide the care patients need,” said NUPGE President Larry Brown.

“HSA contacted Dr. John Murphy, an expert on occupational hygiene, for science-based guidance on the best measures for infection control among health care workers. His research confirms that the best practice is to use N95 respiratory protection. This supports the position of other national health care unions in Canada, and the joint advice to members from unions across Canada,” Brown said.

Surgical mask not best practice for infection control

“HSA represents more than 15,000 health science professionals working in our hospitals, including the respiratory therapists responsible for keeping patients in respiratory distress alive and the diagnostic technologists conducting the scans, x-rays, and other critical tests needed to diagnose hospitalized patients. When working with COVID-19 patients, a surgical mask is simply not the best practice for infection control. It is important our members know that and make sound decisions about how to best protect themselves while providing care,” said HSA President Val Avery.

Recognizing the world-wide shortage of personal protective equipment, Dr. Murphy recommends that properly fit-tested N95 masks be prioritized for allocation based on assessment of the extent of potential exposure and risk, and that surgical masks be used as a back up. In all cases, eye protection must accompany respiratory protection.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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


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