The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions has issued a statement that the federal public health agency’s guidelines to protect front-line health-care workers from outbreaks of diseases like the novel coronavirus are inadequate and could quite possibly compromise their well-being as well as that of their patients.
The standards, which the Public Health Agency of Canada updated last week, lay out precautions health-care workers should take when assessing and treating a patient with a possible case of the coronavirus, including what protective equipment should be used. The agency has committed to updating the guidelines as they learn more about the disease the World Health Organization has named COVID-19, which has sickened more than 64,000 people worldwide.
For example, the current safety standards assume that the coronavirus can’t spread through the air rather than through droplets. But since the scientific data is not there currently, they can’t be 100 per cent sure, said Linda Silas, president of the labour organization.
Nurses, doctors and other medical staff who come into contact with patients must be protected, not only for their own health but to stop the potential spread of the virus, she added.
The Ontario government released its own guidelines calling for constant use of disposable respirators when interacting with a potential coronavirus patient, while the federal guidelines require only a surgical mask unless certain medical procedures are being done.
The federal protocols are in line with the World Health Organization, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and its European counterpart have also recommended higher standards and a greater degree of precaution.
Theresa Tam, chief public health officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, said on Saturday there are eight people in Canada who have tested positive for the virus, following news on Friday that a new case was discovered in British Columbia.
There have been three cases in Ontario and five in B.C., pending confirmation of the latest case by a laboratory.
The Public Health Agency of Canada was created in the wake of the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Nearly half of the 247 cases in Ontario affected nurses, physicians, respiratory therapists, cleaners or other front-line workers.
With the coronavirus epidemic far from contained in China, the possibility of it becoming a full-blown crisis in Canada remains a distinct possibility. -CINEWS