Update for Long Term Care and Home Care Members
This update is to ensure NSGEU members working in long-term care, and home care are aware of the recently updated guidance from public health officials as it relates to personal protective equipment where the care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 occurs. Please see the details of that guidance below.
All members should conduct a point of care risk assessment and determine what PPE/mask is most appropriate to keep you safe and request that PPE directly from your manager/supervisor.
Omicron continues to transmit between people at an alarming rate. Masking is one way you can protect yourself and the people you work with. If you receive any push back from your employer about accessing appropriate PPE please contact your Employee Relations Officer.
Masking Guidelines for Omicron
On December 22, 2021, the World Health Organization issued Recommendations on mask use by healthcare workers, in light of the Omicron variant of concern. NS Health and the IWK reviewed these recommendations and issued their own guidelines based on the current Nova Scotia context. This applies to all settings where care of patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 occurs (e.g., acute care, long-term care, home care).
The following interim precautions and procedures based on the Nova Scotia context will be required in health care settings across Nova Scotia. The protocol will be enacted as an interim measure in health care settings defined under the protocol, until such time that all healthcare workers who provide direct patient, resident, client care or support services in the patient, resident, and client care environment, have had an opportunity to be fit-tested.
Your employers should have all received the following directions:
Specifically, it is recommended at this time that:
- All health care workers perform a point of care risk assessment to determine the most suitable respiratory protection (i.e., well-fitting medical mask or respirator (N95 or alternative)) or fit-tested respirator (N95) to wear when caring for a patient based on the following scenarios.
- Providing care to patients (no COVID-19): wear a well-fitting medical mask or If a medical mask does not provide a secure fit for the employee, a respirator (N95 or alternate) may be used. See the NSH document for more details and helpful links regarding what constitutes a well-fitting mask. A fit-tested respirator (N95) is not required.
- Providing care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection: wear a well-fitting medical mask OR respirator (N95 or alternate). o If a medical mask does not provide a secure fit for the employee, a respirator (N95 or alternate) may be used. A fit-tested respirator (N95) is not required.
- Performing AGMPs on patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19: A fit-tested, seal-checked, respirator (N95) should always be worn by Health care workers in this situation.
Most importantly, it also recommends that:
- All healthcare workers should have ready access to a sufficient supply of well-fitting medical masks, respirators (N95 and alternatives), and fit-tested N95 respirators and should be free to use a respirator (N95) based on their assessment of the situation and their risk.
- Provision of immediate and then ongoing education on choosing and wearing a well-fitting medical mask, respirator and/or eye protection.
- Ongoing education on how to use the point of care risk assessment to choose the proper respiratory protection to wear when caring for a patient with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
- Regular audits on adherence to proper mask, respirator, and eye protection use.
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