United Nurses of Alberta has issued the following message to members as COVID-19 cases continue to grow in Alberta:
Stay vigilant in following public health guidance and restrictions, IPC practices, and wearing appropriate PPE in your workplaces
United Nurses of Alberta is extremely concerned by the significant increase in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks, including the exponential growth of variants of concerns, which are more transmissible and may result in more severe illness for those infected. As expected, this is resulting in increasing numbers of people requiring hospitalization and ICU admission. This also means that nurses and other front-line health care workers across Alberta are at an increased risk of acquiring COVID-19 in their workplaces.
As such, and regardless of your vaccination status, it is important to continue to follow all public health guidance and restrictions outside of work and the required infection, prevention, and control (IPC) practices within your workplaces, including meticulous attention to fitness to work protocols, continuous masking and eye protection, utilizing PPE as per your point-of-care risk assessment (PCRA), precise execution of donning and doffing protocols, diligent hand hygiene practices, and maintaining required physical distancing whenever possible, including when not providing direct patient care. It is not one thing alone that will keep you and your patients safe, it is many things working together.
We want to remind our members of our recently updated Joint Statement on PPE, which provides further clarity and empowers all health care workers to make decisions on the appropriate PPE based on their PCRA. This means that you will have access to fit tested N95 respirators, if you determine it is appropriate based on your PCRA, even in non-AGMP situations, when caring for patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, and that you will not be required to work with PPE contrary to your PCRA. More details on the key changes in the updated Joint Statement on PPE can be found here.
Alberta Health Services has a robust stockpile of N95 respirators including a stable supply chain with regular shipments of Canadian 3M N95 respirators to meet current and potential increases in demand, so there should be no hesitancy to use N95s if you deem it is appropriate based on your PCRA. Supply concerns should not be used as a reason to deny access to N95 respirators or other PPE.
UNA recognizes that unfortunately not all our members and front-line health care workers have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. We have been strongly advocating at weekly COVID-19 meetings with AHS and in a recent letter to the Minister of Health, Tyler Shandro, that all remaining front line health care workers should be prioritized to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.
It is our understanding that all remaining front-line health care workers will be eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 2C. UNA strongly encourages our members to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine they are offered to protect themselves, their families, their colleagues, their vulnerable patients, and the public, as all approved vaccines appear to be highly effective at preventing severe illness.