Immediate Action Required to Protect Seniors and Workers at Northwood Manor
NSGEU nurses redeployed to Northwood Manor are
reporting extremely serious concerns about the health and safety of
vulnerable seniors due to poor infection control and limited safety
protocols at the facility.
Government's Ministerial Order forced nurses and other
health care workers to leave the Halifax Infirmary and report to the
epicentre of the COVID outbreak at Northwood. NSGEU members are working
at 11 Manor, an 11th floor unit with a capacity of 16 and an occupancy
of 12 residents, and 1 Centre a first-floor unit with a capacity of
22-23 beds which is fully occupied. Both are COVID-positive units.
One staff member described the conditions at Northwood
Manor as "horrible" and noted there is little wonder why the virus has
run rampant through the facility, given the lack of Personal Protective
Equipment (PPE) and basic infection control protocols in place.
"Our members are telling us it was like walking into a war zone," said NSGEU President Jason MacLean.
"They desperately want to help these seniors in their
terrible time of need. But for the safety of those seniors and the
staff, this has to be done correctly or things will continue to
Here is a list of a few of the concerns these frontline workers have brought to our attention:
- Lack of infection control measures to protect vulnerable seniors and front line workers;
- Lack of appropriate PPE available on both units;
- Lack of consistent, thorough cleaning of these units;
- Clustering of both negative and positive seniors together on some
units, making it confusing as to who is positive or negative;
Lack of patient armbands to identify which patients require medications;
- Lack of "clean rooms" (a space that is not accessible to patients
where staff can safely don PPE without risk of contamination);
- And lack of garbage receptacles to properly dispose of contaminated
PPE, so workers must carry them through the unit, potentially
contaminating "clean" areas.
The NSGEU brought these concerns forward to the Premier,
Minister of Health & Wellness, and Chief Medical Officer on Monday,
April 20, but NSGEU members continue to report concerns that put both
seniors and workers at risk.
"Our nurses and frontline healthcare workers have put
their own personal safety and lives on the line by going to work at the
epicentre of the COVID-19 crisis, and they feel betrayed by our
government," said MacLean.
NSGEU is calling on government to take the following
steps to ensure our members can continue to provide much needed care to
the residents and staff at Northwood Manor:
- Allow these workers access to N95 masks, as these are COVID-positive units;
- Ensure PPE supplies are available at the entrance of each room, so staff are able to safely respond to a patient in crisis;
- An increased and sustained presence of Infection Control to educate staff and ensure protocols are being followed;
these units to develop a model of care and staff appropriately for patient ratio and acuity;
- Removal of humidifiers from all patient rooms;
- Ensure units are deep-cleaned by housekeeping and then maintained with regular cleanings per day;
- Establish clean rooms for donning PPE, charting and breaks;
- And provide yellow bags
to ensure contaminated PPE is disposed of properly and ensure there are sufficient receptacles in each patient room.
NSGEU frontline healthcare workers remain committed to
working with government to fight COVID-19 and protect vulnerable
seniors at Northwood Manor, provided they are supported and feel safe
"Premier McNeil needs to learn to work collaboratively
with workers, and to hear and respect the concerns they are bringing
forward. They are the trained professionals, and they know what is
needed to protect both them and the clients," MacLean said.
"By forcing our members to work without the appropriate
safety protocols in place, government is essentially forcing them to
put their license to practice on the line, as well."
NSGEU and the other unions representing frontline
healthcare workers already had the Good Neighbour Protocol in place,
and had reached an additional agreement with government to call for
volunteers to temporarily redeploy to Northwood Manor. The Premier's
order to force workers into the Manor was unnecessary and, without the
precautions taken, potentially put more lives at risk.
Furthermore, management did not notify health care
workers of their redeployment: they learned of the move from social
media posts and the news media.
We are only going public with these concerns now because
we have exhausted all other avenues to deal with the safety issues and
concerns for the residents and our members.
This article was published in
Number 25 - April 24, 2020
Nova Scotia: Immediate Action Required to Protect Seniors and Workers at Northwood Manor - Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union