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Clarity Needed Following Recognition Of COVID-19 Aerosolized Spread

  • Bulletin; Health & Safety
Health ministry policies must reflect updated COVID-19 transmission guidelines and allow unrestricted access to personal protective equipment

BCNU has called on the Ministry of Health to update and clarify its infection prevention and control policies following the recently recognized airborne spread of COVID-19.

On May 4, the BC Centre for Disease Control changed its position concerning the spread of COVID-19, and acknowledged that the virus can be transferred between individuals by aerosolized droplets in addition to respiratory droplets.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Health's existing and recommended infection prevention and control measures remain unchanged, and BCNU has received reports of members being refused access to N95 respirators after they have conducted a point-of-care risk assessment and determined there is elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission through patient interaction.

In a May 7 letter to the ministry, BCNU President Christine Sorensen told Deputy Minister Stephen Brown that the current situation is unacceptable, and that the precautionary principle to mitigate the risk of all methods of transmission of COVID-19, including aerosol transmission, should prevail. This means the highest level of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be available to nurses until there is definitive proof that such PPE is not required.

Sorensen also cited the growing confusion among many BCNU members as a result of the ministry's contradictory position, and said that all related health ministry policies and guidelines, including the 2020 PPE Framework, should be immediately revised to include the elevated risk of aerosol-based transmission.

Members should continue to conduct point-of-care risk assessments (PCRA) and use professional judgment inclusive of personal safety to determine the adequate level of PPE required to provide safe patient care.

Please contact your BCNU steward if you are denied access to PPE based on your PCRA, or if you have questions or concerns about PPE access or employer infection prevention and control policies.

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