Health-care workers in the province will have easier access to enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) thanks to a new agreement between the Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) and Shared Health.
"Ensuring health-care workers have access to the supplies they need to keep themselves safe while providing care to COVID-positive or suspect Manitobans has been a priority throughout our pandemic response," said Heather Stefanson, minister of health and seniors care, in a news release.
She said the experiences these workers have had to deal with throughout the pandemic give them the knowledge to know when enhanced equipment is needed.
The new agreement will require all health-care facilities to provide N95 respirators to staff if there is a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.
This will also allow staff to continue wearing a procedure mask where appropriate.
"This agreement is the result of significant effort and hard work by MNU and health system employers to ensure nurses are able to easily access the PPE that will help to keep them safe from COVID-19."
Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer of Shared Health, said the organization was concerned about reports that workers were struggling to get access to N95 masks.
"While the importance of completing a point-of-care risk assessment in advance of every patient interaction is unchanged by this agreement, we are confident Manitoba's highly skilled and professional workforce is equipped to select the PPE they need for each patient encounter while remaining mindful of the importance of preserving our stockpile of PPE for the duration of the pandemic," said Siragusa in a news release.
Darlene Jackson, the president of the MNU, said she has heard similar concerns from nurses as well.
"We are confident this agreement will address those concerns and help improve workplace and patient safety by reducing the risk of transmission in health care facilities – a big win for us all," said Jackson in a news release.
Nurses working in direct contact with COVID patients, labour and delivery units, emergency departments, urgent care centres, and testing sites will all automatically receive the N95 respirators.
A fit-testing initiative is also underway and all health-care workers in direct care settings are required to be fitted by the end of February.
Around 55 per cent of acute care and long-term care staff have already been fitted.
Stefanson said Manitoba has a better supply of PPE compared to earlier in the pandemic.