Nurses in the Okanagan are still struggling to access personal protective equipment, according to their union.
BC Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen said she’s been told that the PPE supply area in Kelowna General Hospital is closed and locked at night.
“Nurses coming onto their shift at 7:30 are somehow supposed to imagine the amount of PPE that they’re going to need prior to 8:00,” she said.
“This is unacceptable.”
That leads to borrowing from other units that are also short equipment, or tracking down a porter who might be able to help them access the supplies, Sorensen said.
Nurses should have unfettered access to PPE to keep themselves safe, she added.
Interior Health said it’s working with sites and programs to ensure there are processes in place to support PPE distribution in a timely and efficient way, including in situations where a unit requires more equipment than anticipated.
“We thank staff for planning ahead to conserve their PPE and we recognize from time to time, there are circumstances that will require more PPE than is anticipated, depending on the particular needs of patients and staff,” Interior Health said in an email.
“We understand these situations will occur and have processes in place to support staff accessing additional PPE during the day and after hours in a timely way.”
Sorensen said nurses have told her that they are wearing a single mask for their entire shift, and they have to continually ask for additional PPE.
“We hear regular reports of large numbers of personal protective equipment coming into this province, yet we don’t see that translating into actually being available on the units at point of care,” Sorensen said.
“So I question whether that personal protective equipment is meeting guidelines, is approved for use in health care facilities, and what efforts are actually being made to ensure that our nurses and other health-care workers are going to be safe as we move through this pandemic.”
Interior Health responded that staff are expected to follow the provincial PPE guidelines, which outline its use and how often gloves, masks and gowns should be changed.
Sorensen also noted there is a provincial nursing shortage.
“This means that nurses are working beyond the regular scheduled hours,” she said.
“They’re working overtime, extended shifts, and if we exhaust our nursing population, if we’re not protecting our nursing population, with the PPE they need, we may not have nurses there to take care of us as patients when we get sick.”