Union calls for province to give N-95 masks to Manitoba health care support workers

WINNIPEG — The union representing health care support workers in Manitoba is calling on the province to give N-95 masks to all its members working directly with COVID-positive patients, and is urging its members to refuse work if they don’t get a proper mask.

Debbie Boissonneault, president of CUPE 204 which represents health care support workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and Shared Health, said it’s time the province updates its policy on masks.

She said an assessment form has to be filled out by a nurse before support staff are allowed to have an N-95 mask. But with COVID-19 case counts skyrocketing recently and more support staff testing positive, Boissonneault says she wants the bureaucratic step eliminated.

“We believe that anytime you are with a COVID positive patient, resident or client, that you should be wearing the N-95s,” she said, adding she doesn’t believe the surgical masks provided by the province offer enough protection.

“We know a lot of them are expired and we are slowly getting them pulled out of the hospitals and places, but why are people getting COVID 19 if they are saying that (the masks) are good?”

Boissonneault has written a letter to Lanette Siragusa, the chief nursing officer for Shared Health, calling for the change to the N-95 mask policy. She said the union has already filed a number of grievances calling for stronger personal protective equipment.

She said the union is now urging its members to refuse work if they do not get a proper N-95 mask.

“Say you are willing to do the work, you want to do the work, but you want to do it safely and you want an N-95 (mask),” she said.

CTV News has reached out to Shared Health for comment.

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