image.jpg

The family of a nurse at the Victoria General Hospital is raising red flags after he contracted COVID-19.

As of the most recent update on Monday, the COVID-19 outbreak at the hospital has been linked to 40 cases among patients and 37 in staff.

Among those who have contracted the virus is a nurse named Eric Wheeler.

In an effort to inform Manitobans about what's going on inside hospitals, his family penned an open letter on Facebook.

"Nurses began to feel ill and started being tested. Some nurses called their occupational health and safety contact and were told they were not exposed to COVID and had no need to be tested. Some of these nurses' tests came back positive and they were told they must have acquired COVID in the community," the letter reads in part.

"Nurses began to ask for N95 masks because their colleagues were getting ill. After being mocked as being 'paranoid' they were provided with a single N95 per day. They were also issued a paper bag to store their dirty N95 while they were on break to eat meals, and expected to put their hand back into this bag and put their dirty mask on after eating."

The letter states nurses started skipping meals and water breaks to avoid taking their masks off.

According to Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health's chief nursing officer, this isn't the first report of nurses not getting proper PPE

"I have heard that people are not getting their PPE," she said. "I have followed up on everything that I've personally received."

Nurses are currently asked to complete a point-of-care risk assessment to determine what PPE is needed.

Darlene Jackson, president of the Manitoba Nurses' Union, said the lack of PPE is just one example of how nurses are missing critical supports during the pandemic.

"Unfortunately, nurses at Victoria and at other health facilities have been frustrated by PPE rationing imposed by management," said Jackson in an email to CTV News. "They've faced pressure not to use N95 masks, despite determining that they were necessary after performing point-of-care risk assessments."

However, Siragusa said most nurses are getting the equipment they need, but that they might be asked about why they need it.

"Everybody has some accountability in the system. Not only keep yourself safe but to conserve PPE. So a question is not a denial, but it is a question."

Questioning nurses is not the right move, according to Jackson.

"Pressuring nurses to accept a lesser standard of protection is unacceptable. It puts nurses and their patients at greater risk," she said in an email. "Unfortunately, to date, there has been a lack of accountability and adequate communication from leadership."

While the outbreak at Victoria General Hospital grows, the family that wrote the letter raising red flags remains at home.

"We are lucky that our family is fine, we will self-isolate and protect our vulnerable community members, but my heart goes out to the many Manitobans who will lose loved ones because of this negligence," ends the letter.

According to Victoria General Hospital, it isn't accepting any new patients into the two COVID-19 affected units and is following outbreak protocols.