Nurses' union calls for better access to PPE as Fraser Health battles large COVID-19 outbreak at Burnaby Hospital
VANCOUVER -- As Fraser Health works to get a major COVID-19 outbreak at Burnaby Hospital under control, the union representing nurses says workers need better access to personal protective equipment.
The outbreak began Nov. 9 with a couple COVID-positive cases on a single unit. Since then, the number of infected patients has exploded to 55. Five people have died.
Forty staff also have the virus, however Fraser Health says it’s still investigating the source of transmission in workers.
“The hospital’s still serving its patients but it’s extraordinarily stressful,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday.
After the outbreak began, there was a fire at the hospital Nov. 16 and it’s still being probed by Burnaby RCMP arson investigators. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, says the blaze may have caused further spread of the virus.
“With the fire, people were moved around and they had to be very quickly,” she explained.
“We need to work together to take that strain off on Burnaby Hospital,” she added.
Meanwhile, the union representing nurses says members are worried about inadequate access to personal protective equipment at Burnaby Hospital and other healthcare facilities in B.C.
“If a nurse decides that she needs an N-95 mask to care (for) a patient, she should be given access to that mask,” says Christine Sorenson, president of the BC Nurses' Union.
“The difficulty is that right now, nurses do not have that unfettered access and they continuously are running short around the province and are having to ask permission to get the equipment to do their job safely," she said in an interview with CTV News.
Fraser Health says the safety of its staff is a priority and it’s doing all it can to protect its workers.
“Fraser Health is committed to providing all staff with the personal protective equipment they need to do their job safely and we follow provincial direction in doing so,” the organization said in an email.
“We have sufficient supply of personal protective equipment and are confident that we have what we need to respond to this public health emergency.”
The union is also concerned about nurses becoming sick.
“If we don’t have enough nurses to provide patient care, patient care will suffer,” Sorenson said.
Burnaby Hospital is still open, but only the ICU, maternity and palliative care unit are accepting new patients.