Province says it’s taking action to better protect nurses amid COVID-19 pandemic

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The province says it's taking further action to protect frontline nurses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The province—in collaboration with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and in consultation with the Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA), Ontario Health and the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA)—says it's issuing a directive on health and safety standards for frontline nurses in hospitals in order to prevent exposure to and transmission of COVID-19. 

“It is critical that we are protecting our frontline nurses who are fighting to protect us from COVID-19 every day,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a statement. 

“We are collaborating with our partners in the health system to implement this new directive to ensure that nurses have the protection they need to safely provide the best care for their patients.”

The province says this directive outlines precautions for interactions with suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients; point-of-care risk assessments for every patient interaction to assess appropriate health and safety measures; and training on the safe use of all personal protective equipment (PPE).

According to a joint statement from the province, the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the ONA, a point-of-care risk assessment (PCRA) must be performed before every patient interaction. 

If a health care worker determines, based on their professional and clinical judgement that health and safety measures may be required, then the worker must have access to the appropriate health and safety control measures, including an N95 respirator. The statement also says the employer will not unreasonably deny access to the appropriate PPE.

The statement also says that contact and droplet precautions must be used by health care workers for all interactions with suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients. Contact and droplet precautions include gloves, face shields or goggles, gowns, and surgical/procedure masks.

The statement also says that all health care workers who are within two metres of suspected, presumed or confirmed COVID-19 patients shall have access to appropriate PPE. This will include access to surgical/procedure masks, fit-tested NIOSH-approved N-95 respirators (or approved equivalent or better protection), gloves, face shields with side protection and impermeable and/or fluid-resistant gowns.

The statement also says that the employers must commit to providing all health care workers with information on safe utilization of all PPE and employees shall be appropriately trained to safely use all of these supplies.

The province says the directive also addresses the conservation of the current level of personal protective equipment supplies, adding that the government is working to increase this supply.

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