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Some B.C. nurses still lack access to N95 respirators, union president says

With thousands of health-care workers calling in sick in B.C. each day as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread through the province, the head of the BC Nurses Union says a lack of access to personal protective equipment is contributing to the problem.

BCNU president Aman Grewal told CTV News on Saturday that she continues to hear from nurses around the province - particularly those working in long-term care and in the community - that they are unable to access N95 respirators.

This, despite the fact that such high-filtration face masks are increasingly being recommended to the general public during the Omicron wave.

"They need to do a point of care risk assessment to determine whether they need an N95 mask," Grewal said. "That should be an automatic that if the nurse feels that she or he needs that to protect themselves, that they have access to it, they don't need to go ask for it, that it's available for them."

"The way we used to do it before this pandemic, a nurse determined whether they needed that N95 mask and they were able to use that without having to ask for permission," she added.

Grewal said she didn't know a specific number or percentage of nurses struggling to access N95 masks in B.C.

She's not the only medical professional to have complained about a lack of such masks in medical settings, however.

Late last month, health-care providers who wanted to volunteer to administer booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine in public clinics were told they could not bring their own N95 masks with them. Instead, they were instructed to use the PPE provided at the clinic, which did not include N95s. 

The number of B.C. health-care workers calling in sick has declined since earlier in the month, but it's still well above the historical average, according to Health Minister Adrian Dix.

At a news conference Friday, Dix said 7,952 health-care workers called in sick from Jan. 17 to 19. That was down from 11,010 during the same period the previous week, from Jan. 10 to 12. Top Stories

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