Nurses in Alberta refuse to perform COVID-19 test without face mask
A group of nurses in Alberta has refused to perform coronavirus tests without an n95 face mask, but the province says the mask isn’t required by government health agencies.
The union that represents nurses in Alberta said about a dozen nurses have refused to perform the test. Some were asked to go into a home to conduct it, a job that is usually done by emergency medical technicians who are equipped with n95 masks.
"Their clinical knowledge and assessment is that an n95 is the appropriate protection for them to undertake the procedure," said Heather Smith, President of the United Nurses of Alberta.
Alberta Health Services said it is providing staff members with protection that is in line with the Canada Health Agency and the World Health Organization.
In a statement, a spokesperson says AHS is confident guidelines and equipment it has in place will protect workers.
"We remain confident that the guidelines and equipment we have in place will protect our workers from exposure to covid," it read.
But the union argues other agencies suggest n95 masks are best.
"The CDC, the US CDC identified that if supply does become an issue or is an issue that alternatives may be used, but when supply is stabilized they should return to the use of n95s," Smith said.
AHS tells CTV News that it has an adequate supply of n95 masks, but that they must be used appropriately to maintain the supply.
The union has been in contact with AHS and do not believe it’s an issue with supply. They’re also not asking that every nurse have one, just in certain situations.
"If a nurse believes that a procedure she is doing or her interactions with a patient are, qualify in their assessment for an n95 it shouldn’t be denied," Smith said.
"I believe an unnecessary dispute to be having at this time. It’s causing a lot of distress in workplaces right across this country, but we believe the higher precautionary principle rule should be used."
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson