Late last week, a meeting was held to update all health care unions on the state of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) preparedness in the province. The meeting was hosted by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and included representatives from all RHAs via teleconference. Diagnostic Services of Manitoba was also represented at this meeting.
Private employers such as Gamma Dynacare, SMD, etc. were not represented at this meeting. I encourage our members at these sites to ask the very same questions about your employer’s preparedness and contact your LRO if you have concerns.
While I will be sharing the information that was presented, it is imperative that all members take the responsibility to get as much information as they can from their employer. The WRHA has a number of resource available on their website. Please review this information regularly as the content is updated on a very regular basis. See this link for the latest information: http://www.wrha.mb.ca/prog/ipc/evd.php
The remainder of the RHAs are continuing to plan for training staff on proper screening protocols, use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), etc. Please speak to your manager or supervisor to ensure you have the most up to date and relevant instructions. If you feel that you are not receiving this information, or have any concerns about these preparations, please contact your Labour Relations Officer. The contact information is contained in a link at the bottom of this email.
Highlights from the meeting:
• The risk of EVD appearing in Manitoba remains relatively low. However plans have been underway for approximately 2 months and are rapidly evolving.
• The early focus was on the most likely access points (emergency departments and EMS) by creating a screening algorithm that details travel history of the patient. Those who have travelled to Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia are automatically “flagged” and treated accordingly.
• It was stated that mock exercises have been carried out, which contradicts what our members have told us recently. Our most likely members that would have involvement with EVD patients are HSC Respiratory Therapists, EMS and DSM (HSC) lab technologists. The HSC Respiratory Therapists have forwarded a number of concerns, and MAHCP is right now setting up a dedicated meeting with those members and the WRHA to discuss those issues. Some of the results of that meeting will apply to all members and will be shared as soon as we have those answers.
• Personal Protective Equipment has been purchased in bulk and will be distributed to the rural RHAs as of this week. Ask your manager or supervisor for the latest information/ instruction on donning and doffing of PPE. Because Winnipeg is the site of the National Microbiology Lab, PPE was ordered early with the intention of avoiding supply shortages as other provinces continue their preparedness plans. MAHCP asked very pointed questions about the level of PPE for the various professionals including physicians, Respiratory Therapists, Lab Technologists and nurses. We will continue to push for the highest level of protection available. If you have questions about the provided PPE, please make sure you ask your supervisor or manager. It is their job to make sure you understand why certain PPE is used and how to properly use it when it becomes necessary. If your training has consisted of watching the instructional video, please request hands-on practice for donning and doffing of the equipment. There are currently discussions on one piece suits versus layered, or multi-piece suits. There are also durability tests being carried out for EMS staff who may be required to use this PPE in harsh winter environments.
• The WRHA has held a number of “Town Hall” meetings. I strongly urge you to attend one of these sessions as the WRHA has committed to holding more in the near future. Ask your supervisor or manager to hold similar meetings in your region/ site.
• Knowing that a patient may present at any point within the healthcare system means that practically any of our members may need to know how to deal with this event. Here is what the WRHA states in this case, with similar statements issued by all Health Regions:
“Despite our planning and preparations so far, many of you remain worried about what to do in the rare event you encounter a member of the public who spontaneously presents somewhere in our health system with symptoms consistent with EVD and they suggest they recently returned from an Ebola affected country.
To ensure your own safety and the safety of others, you should follow these four key steps:
1. Take a “no-touch” approach to the patient, and maintain a two metre (six feet) distance;
2. Provide them with a mask;
3. Isolate them in a separate room; and
4. Contact your Infection Control Professional/designate immediately.”
• MAHCP continues to stress to the regions that the safety and well-being of all of our members is paramount. They need to provide the best information and really listen to the concerns we bring forward.
• An interesting piece of information is that Manitoba Health/ Emergency Medical Services is that since travel history is such a critical part of the screening process for EVD, any traveler who has visited one of the West African countries will be flagged within the system. As passports are scanned from those affected countries, there will be a report sent to Manitoba Health if this is the traveler’s destination. This will alert any dispatch or emergency personnel to the need for further screening in advance of coming in contact with the patient.
In the end, there is a huge amount of information being shared right now. Both through the Regional Health Authorities and the media. The risk remains low for EVD to arrive in Manitoba. It is up to each of us to make sure we get the information that we need to feel safe in the work we do. If you cannot access this information, or you have concerns about the preparations in your site or region, please let your Labour Relations officer know: https://mahcp.ca/?page_id=58 .