AHS, Covenant Health, and major health care unions release updated joint statement on Personal Protective Equipment use as Omicron variant of COVID-19 circulates in Canada

For Immediate Release: Dec. 23, 2021

EDMONTON – Alberta Health Services (AHS), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), Covenant Health (CH), the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), and United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) have reached agreement on an updated joint statement on the safe and effective use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in our collective response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The goal of the update agreed to by representatives of the parties on Dec. 22 is to reflect evolving evidence on COVID-19 transmission and to further simplify PPE guidance for health care workers in Alberta.

The updated document incorporates a number of perspectives, including the precautionary principle and evolving guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The parties acknowledged that data and evidence have continued to accumulate as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, and have jointly committed to reviewing and updating the revised position statement as necessary to reflect changes in relevant data.

This update was specifically intended to provide early interim guidance as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 circulates in Canada.

The updated joint agreement sets out new minimum PPE requirements including that all clinical and non-clinical health care workers who enter a room or space, or are within two metres of a patient with suspected, presumed, or confirmed COVID-19, will wear a fit-tested N95 respirator, gown, gloves, and eye protection.

In addition, all clinical and non-clinical health care workers are now expected to wear N95 respirators in settings where frequent or unexpected exposure to aerosol generated medical procedures is anticipated (for example, critical care units and emergency departments), where there is a high density of COVID-19 patients (such as COVID-19 units), or when there is evidence of unexplained transmission (such as COVID-19 outbreaks).

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, access to appropriate PPE has been a key factor in protecting the health and safety of health care workers by helping to prevent exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 as they provide high-quality care to Albertans.

All parties are committed to continuing to work together to address issues and solve problems as they arise.

We remain grateful for the dedication and commitment of all health care teams during this challenging time.