UNA and CFNU urge Health Minister Tyler Shandro to adopt precautionary principle as standard in fighting COVID-19

United Nurses of Alberta and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions have urged Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro to adopt the precautionary principle as the province’s standard in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In hospitals and long-term care facilities all across Canada inconsistencies in the rules around infection prevention and control and the use of personal protective equipment still persist,” said a letter sent to Shandro today by UNA President Heather Smith and CFNU President Linda Silas.

“Health care workers need your leadership at this time, Minister Shandro,” the letter stated.

“At any other time, nurses and other workers in health care environments are entrusted with the care of patients,” the letter continued, “yet at this critical moment, when faced with a global pandemic and when we need their skills and services most, they find their professional judgment called into question and their safety potentially jeopardized, which is both offensive and dangerous.”

“Canada must learn from the difficult lessons of other countries grappling with COVID-19,” Smith’s and Silas’s letter to Shandro continued. “Health care workers make up nearly 10% of those infected in Italy, and close to 14% of COVID-19 cases in Spain. Here at home … we’ve seen nurses, physicians and other health care workers exposed. …” 

A copy of CFNU’s position statement including recommendations that UNA and CFNU believe should be put into practice immediately was sent with the letter to the health minister.

On the question of taking nasal swabs, CFNU’s position statement says health care workers taking a sample from patients with known or suspected cases of COVID-19 should perform a point-of-care risk assessment. If the assessment indicates the need for respiratory protection, a fit-tested N95 respirator as a minimum must be worn.