A Wallaceburg long-term care home failed to provide medical face masks for workers, according to the union representing the employees.
Unifor says Fairfield Park purchased non-medical grade masks for its employees and only removed them after the union did their own research to disprove the employer’s claims that the masks were government approved.
"The pandemic has exposed the chronic and dangerous situations in our nursing homes," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "Long term care staff are exhausted. They go to work every day hoping they won't contract COVID-19 and that they and their residents will be safe. They trust that the employer will have proper personal protective equipment to keep them safe."
The union says the ministry mandates that all employees must wear, at a minimum, medical masks when at work.
"Fairfield Park is in a terrible outbreak, and this owner put their own workers at risk while the virus spread through the building infecting residents and staff," said Tullio DiPonti, president of Unifor Local 2458. "Premier Ford should pull their license for contributing to the spread of this terrible virus."
Unifor says even though the government has created dedicated funding for recruiting new staff, employers must be held accountable for their inactions.
“How do we attract workers to this sector when they are not certain their employer is doing everything in their power to keep them safe and provide them with appropriate PPE,” said DiPonti. “These same workers go to the bargaining table and face pages of concessions, even after working through a pandemic.”
In a statement to CTV News, Fairfield Park administrator Tracey Maxim, says the home’s long-standing supplier delivered a box of surgical masks that was mislabeled. The home received assurance the masks were the appropriate masks, but once the issue was brought to their attention they were pulled from use.
“We have since been in touch with our supplier who has provided a report to our team that the masks were safe for medical use and meet all requirements set out by Health Canada and the Province of Ontario. We have shared this report with Unifor and our internal health and safety committee,” Maxim said. “It is unfortunate that Unifor has chosen to leave this information out of their news release today.”
“In an effort to be extra cautious,” Maxim says Fairfield Park has continued to suspend the use of the masks while they conduct an internal investigation about the efficacy and safety of the materials.
The home has been in contact with Public Health and Chatham Kent Health Alliance regarding the masks’ safety.
Maxim says Fairfield Park has implemented and continues to follow all new and ongoing COVID-19 prevention measures as directed by the province.
“Finally, we have received clinical support from Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, EMS, as well as other healthcare partners. We are grateful for the assistance from our medical community and we are confident that we are doing everything we can to ensure the continued health and safety of everyone at Fairfield Park,” Maxim says.
With files from CTV Windsor's Bob Bellacicco