‘Nurses are telling us they’re not ready’: union on Ebola preparedness in Canada

WATCH ABOVE: Quinn Ohler reports on the fears of frontline staff when it comes to Ebola, and what’s being done to ease them.

EDMONTON – Would Alberta nurses know how to protect themselves if faced with a case of potential Ebola? According to the United Nurses of Alberta, the answer is a resounding ‘no.’

Jane Sustrik, the vice-president of the union, says that was evident during an Ebola scare over the weekend in Edmonton, when nurses were given wrong information regarding what kind of mask they needed to wear to protect themselves.

“Some of the simplest, most known preparedness hasn’t been…communicated to the front line staff,” she said.

It’s a concern that has even more gravity considering a Dallas nurse contracted Ebola after treating a man who died last week of the disease. The nurse wore protective gear while having extensive contact with the patient. Officials say she has not been able to pinpoint any breach in infection control protocols, although there apparently was one.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: How did Dallas worker catch Ebola?

“For nurses it’s almost one of their colleagues in Texas that was hit,” said Linda Silas with the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, which represents 200,000 nurses across the country.

“It could happen in any one of our major centres and we just need to get ready a lot quicker and it has to be more than meetings. It has to be education sessions on the ground in all health care facilities.”

Silas would also like to see more effective screening, which she believes is paramount to preventing the spread of the disease should it reach Canada.

READ MORE: How does Ebola spread? 5 things you need to know

“I think we will get there; but right now, nurses are telling us they’re not ready and they’re still waiting to get the information.

“We have a culture of taking care of the sick and we forget that we have to build a culture of safety — a safety around health care workers. And that’s not there. And we really have to change that.”

Alberta Health Services acknowledges the concerns and says it will revise its protocols and procedures, and provide immediate training.  AHS president and CEO Vickie Kaminski insists the safety of staff is “an absolute priority.”

Story continues below advertisement

She adds that Alberta nurses aren’t alone in their concerns.

“We’re hearing it from frontline staff across the country,” Kaminski said, “concern about ‘Are we using the most reasonable protective equipment when we need to? Are we up to date on all our protocols?'”

READ MORE: Concerned, yet confident: How Canadians feel about Ebola

On Tuesday, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Gregory Taylor said there are regular meetings among top health professionals to talk about Ebola preparedness, including ensuring hospital staff know how to properly use protective equipment.

Taylor added although Canada is ready, we must be vigilant and improve our systems and preparedness.

With files from 630 CHED and Quinn Ohler, Global News

Sponsored content