COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for the Healthcare Bargaining Unit

What PPE should we be provided with at work now?

The current direction for PPE is procedural masks are to be worn in common areas and while travelling throughout the facility where there could be indirect patient contact. If you have direct contact with patients, the protocol for PPE will be different if the patient is COVID-19 negative, COVID-19 positive, on droplet precautions, or an aerosol generating medical procedure is being conducted.


It doesn’t seem like everyone at the hospital is following the same protocols: when should we be wearing masks?

Everyone should be wearing masks where there are patients. It is not necessary to wear a mask if you are not patient-facing.


We have been asked to recycle face shields, and I am not comfortable with this. What should I do?

Many face shields are meant to be a one-time use item. There are some face shields that are reusable. If you have concerns about the PPE being provided, these concerns should be discussed with your manager. If you do not get a satisfactory response from your manager, please contact your Employee Relations Officer (ERO).


What if we are exposed to COVID-19 at work: do we just take it home to our families?

Unfortunately, exposure to COVID-19 can happen anywhere. It has been confirmed that the virus can be transmitted before symptoms appear or person tests positive. The best defense is appropriate use of PPE, good hygiene, and social distancing. If you are concerned about a particular encounter, you should contact Public Health/811.


Someone who lives in my household has returned from international travel, but my employer is telling me to come to work. Should I?

If you are able to maintain distance between household members and the returning member is asymptomatic, you should be able to go to work and carry out your job. If you have concerns about being at work, you should discuss them with your manager. If the returning member has symptoms, please call 811/Public Health.


What is the difference between redeployment vs. reassignment? What are the employer’s reassignment rights?

The employer is using the language of redeployment when it is really reassignment. The reassignment language is in Article 35 of the Health Care collective agreement. If reassignment is necessary, your employer must first look for volunteers. If there are no volunteers, then people may be reassigned from the least senior up. You are not to be reassigned to do the work of a different classification or further than a driving distance of 50 kilometres if you work in HRM, or 75 kilometres if you work outside of HRM. If you are being reassigned outside of the reassignment area or your classification, please contact your ERO.


 I was asked to work on COVID unit: do I have the right to refuse?

You do not have the right to refuse reassignment. You do have the right to refuse unsafe work.


How much notice must they give us before redeployment/reassignment?

The employer should be providing as much notice as possible of a reassignment. If you need time to make arrangements for child or eldercare as a result of a change in hours, the employer must be reasonable with a start date. There may be instances where there is not the ability for much notice.


Do we receive different compensation if we are reassigned/redeployed?

You will continue to be paid according to your classification. There are no extra premiums for being reassigned.


If you volunteer to be redeployed, could you end up stuck there, or will you return to your normal job?

If you volunteer to be reassigned, it could last for several weeks depending on the circumstances. You will always go back to your own job once the reassignment is ended.


I’ve heard the IWK is putting their pregnant employees off work when they reach 34 months: what is the NSHA doing to protect pregnant employees?

There is no policy at the IWK regarding pregnant employees. Nor at NSHA. The position of NSHA and the IWK is that pregnant and immunocompromised employees are at no more risk than other employees if appropriate PPE is used correctly. Pregnant employees have the ability to access pregnancy leave at 34 weeks.


If you are not full-time, can you be forced to work full-time hours?

It is possible that a reassignment may involve an increase in hours.


Can you be forced to work in a different setting (i.e. long-term care?)

At the time of the town hall, the answer was no, you can’t be forced into a different setting as this would be voluntary under the Good Neighbor Protocol. Given the recent events at Northwood, it would seem that members can be forced to work at other employers via Ministerial Order. NSGEU is looking into the legality of the Premier’s actions. You can still refuse unsafe work.


I work on a unit that is closed and essentially just providing virtual care. Most of us have not been reassigned to other areas yet. Could we be laid off by the employer?



If the employer is following proper guidelines and you are trained but still do not feel safe, can you refuse to work?

The right to refuse unsafe work is personal and occurs as a result of your own assessment of the situation at the time. You can’t refuse based on fear or unease.


How does the work refusal process work?

You would conduct an assessment of the work you are being asked to do. If, at that point, you believe the work to be unsafe, you would first discuss the situation/circumstances of the refusal with your manager. If the manager can remedy the situation to your satisfaction the refusal is over. If not, the JOHSC gets involved. If the JOHSC decides unanimously the refusal does not have merit, the refusal is over. If the JOHSC remedies the situation to your satisfaction the refusal is over. If neither of those things happen, the next step is involving the Department of Labour. If you refuse unsafe work, please contact your ERO.


Could we take a leave of absence and access Federal funds through CERB?

The qualifications for CERB are outside of the union’s scope. If you have questions related to CERB, please contact Service Canada.


In the midst of this pandemic, does the union plan to still work on other issues, such as grievances?

The work of NSGEU continues during the pandemic. We do expect that there will be some things that will experience a delay. We prioritize the work that can withstand a delay and the work that cannot. If you have a specific issue that requires assistance, please call your ERO.


Is there anything being done to assist health care workers who need childcare?

There is no program available at this time to assist with childcare. If you are experiencing a conflict with childcare and work, please discuss the conflict with your manager. The employer has indicated that managers will work with staff to manage the conflict. If your discussions with your manager have not resolved the conflict and you require assistance, contact your ERO.

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