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Ontario nurses are challenging the province's N95 mask regulations

Ontario nurses are challenging the province’s N95 mask regulations

In Ontario, public health officials have determined that the N95 mask and condom are only mandatory for specific hospital medical conditions. So hospital nurses do not have to constantly wear them as they like.

In this case, the union is accusing Ontario’s chief medical officer of inaction and not providing adequate protection for its members, by giving them the N95 masks it believes are more appropriate than surgical masks.

His lawyers in District Court say the mask is more waterproof and that it protects nurses better from virus droplets suspended in the air in an enclosed space like a hospital.

Dr. David Williams did not follow the precautionary principle in this regardDanielle Bisner, attorney, explains.

Chief Medical Officer for Health Ontario, Dr David Williams.

Photo: Evan Mitsui / CBC

Bisnar adds that Dr. Williams should have known that the COVID-19 infections in the nurses had been expected since the start of the epidemic, given the experience of SARS 17 years ago in Toronto.

The attorney adds that nurses are among the residents of Ontario most affected by the new coronavirus and that public health was warned of their concerns in a letter from their union in the summer of 2020.

Exhausted, fearful, and angry. Dr. Williams’ decision not to adequately protect them at work was unreasonableShe continues.

A nurse takes care of a patient in intensive care in Ontario.

A nurse takes care of a patient in intensive care at a hospital in Ontario.

Photo: CBC / Evan Mitsui

His colleague, Phil Apink, acknowledged that the science is not yet entirely clear about the ways in which the COVID-19 virus was transmitted and that this was more true at the start of the pandemic.

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However, it is hypothetically better to force the wearing of the N95 mask in the hospital to avoid any risk of unnecessary injury.Explain to me, Abinek.

Suggesting wearing it on an optional basis should not be an option, he said, in times of pandemic, especially since nurses are the ones most exposed to the emerging coronavirus.

When you do not know all the risks associated with a particular mode of transmission, you should not hesitate to protect all health care workers.The association’s lawyer continues.

Antiseptic N95 masks are suspended.

N95 respirators are suspended in the hospital to be disinfected.

Photo: Courtoisie / Duke Health / Sean Rocco

Mr Abinc cites in particular the view of a doctor from Ontario who has determined that COVID-19 can be transmitted by inhaling an aerosol.

It also mentions recommendations to this effect that were made in the United States, the European Union and the World Health Organization.

The risks of contracting the new coronavirus by aerosols were high enough to require that the N95 mask be worn at all times on the jobTeammate Me Bisnar concludes.

The union’s attorneys also alluded to a recent ruling by the Administrative Labor Court of Quebec that ruled in favor of the nurses in that province about the same concerns of their clients based on the same precautionary principle.

Negative attitude

An Ontario public health attorney had to defend Dr Williams’ guidance.

One of them was first surprised by the position of the nurses union insofar as it has been called up several times since the start of the epidemic, when the chief health official laid down his directives on protective devices for workers in March 2020.

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The Registered Nurses Association has its own guidelines, and has every field of view necessary to make wearing the N95 mask mandatory among its members.Says attorney William McClarkey.

In this sense, Dr. David Williams’s guidance was not as unreasonable, in his opinion, as the union claims.

A nurse wearing a mask.

A nurse prepares to enter the intensive care room at North York General Hospital.

Photo: CBC / Evan Mitsui

Me MacLarkey adds that nurses are in the best position to judge the risks they face or not in facing the possibility of transmitting COVID-19 by inhaling an aerosol, even if there is no scientific consensus on this method of transmission.

Nor is it the jurisdiction of the Ontario District Court to rule, according to him, in a scientific debate about the effectiveness of N95 masks against COVID-19.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta only recommends the N95 mask … if we’d had our nurses wear it at all times, we’d be the only jurisdiction in the world to do so.MacLarkey remembers me.

The attorney notes that nurses have free time to ask the employer to wear it at all times if they have concerns at work and no hospital can prevent them from doing so.

The evidence we provided in our affidavits shows that any nurse can apply without any difficulty., He explains.

Me MacLarkey also notes that no union complaint has been filed regarding the dismissal of the matter before a district arbitration court.

The lawyer finally remembers that Dr. Williams has discretionary powers that allow him to issue public health directives under the legal powers granted to him by the legislature.

So it is not necessary, according to him, to rewrite his directions, especially since there is no longer a shortage of N95 masks as there was at the end of Spring 2020.

However, a MacLarkey judge reminded me that The precautionary principleWhich is at stake in these sessions, aim to issue wise guidelines to minimize any risk of infection.

The three District Court judges kept the case until an unspecified date.

However, the nurses union is asking them to act quickly, as the request for judicial review was filed on February 24, ahead of the third wave of COVID-19 in the county.