Hema-Quebec workers denied information on COVID-19 outbreak: union

Several Hema-Quebec employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, but staff haven't been informed how extensive the outbreak is, according to a major healthcare union.

In a statement issued Friday, the Federation of Health and Social Services (FSSS-CSN) said Hema-Quebec sent a memo to staff on Wednesday informing them of the outbreak but not the number of workers infected or where they work.

“We find it unacceptable that Hema-Quebec doesn't specify in which city and in which services there are cases of COVID-19,” said union vice-president Lucie Longchamps. “The number of cases isn't known either.”

Hema-Quebec spokesperson Laurent-Paul Menard said three cases of COVID-19 had been identified among the organization's 1,400 employees. One of those employees was on vacation when they were diagnosed and a second was not working from the office, he said.

Menard said an expert committee evaluated the case of the third staff member and found little risk to the employee's colleagues. 

“We have to make sure all mitigation measures are taken to reduce all the risks," said Menard. "In the three cases that we've had since the beginning of the pandemic that were brought to our attention, there was not a reason to consider the risk as an important one.”

Menard said the need for donated blood continues to be pressing in Quebec and blood drives have continued with preventive measures in place. 

Unions representing Hema-Quebec workers have asked for more information, requests they said have been denied.

“It's not a question of knowing the names of the people but the teams that are concerned,” said Longchamps. “We also find it very unfortunate that Hema-Quebec has put an end to weekly meetings with certain unions dealing with COVID, just before the announcement of the cases.”

Menard said he was unaware of the meetings being cancelled.

“Maybe they will bring that up to those meetings to make sure communication is more fluid. But we have to take into account we cannot share personal information,” he said.

Longchamps said Hema-Quebec workers are excluded from bonuses intended for healthcare workers at the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis but that the outbreak shows the risks to them are real. 

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