N-95 masks… NOW !

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Since April, SECUSM requires N-95 masks and weekly tests for all health care personnel in order to isolate contaminated persons as quickly as possible. 

 In August, we made recommendations to be able to better control the second wave. 

In this article, we highlighted:

1- That science could absolutely not exclude that the transmission of COVID could occur in aerosol mode;  

2- That in the absence of scientific certainty, we should apply a precautionary principle and provide N-95 masks to all health personnel in yellow and red zones.

And we were frankly asking the question whether the INSPQ was making its limited recommendations on N-95 masks based on science or rather trying to “manage” the shortage of essential equipment?

400 specialists have given their opinion

On January 4, 2021, more than 400 specialists published an open letter declaring :

“…in order to limit the spread of the disease, it is imperative to recognize that it is transmitted by air. » 


“…there is good evidence that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is spread through the air by aerosols, microscopic particles generated by breathing, talking, screaming, singing and coughing. »

A radical change of direction is needed 

It’s time for things to change.  The government is acting on only one aspect of the crisis: asking citizens to wear a procedural mask and keep their distance.  This is good, but it is totally insufficient.  

What is the government doing to prevent the spread of the disease within our health institutions, to get us out of the shortage of N-95 masks, the lack of swabs, the lack of reagents to do laboratory tests, the lack of laboratory equipment?

The answer: NOTHING

The pandemic is spreading within the health care system.  

According to MUHC figures from December 30, 2020, there has been:

– 277 MUHC employees infected during the first wave (all job titles combined) 

– and, to date, 363 cases in the second wave (since September 1).

The crisis will worsen with the return from vacations and trips to the south.

The MUHC’s figures are clear, however: not a single job title is being spared: Beneficiary Attendants, Administrative Agents, Housekeeping, Parking Attendants, Security Agents, Laboratory Attendants, etc.  

Epidemiological investigations also reveal that the vast majority of our 640 colleagues were infected at work and not in the community.  It should be noted that almost all of these people infected at work have nothing to do with the rare medical procedures that generate droplets.

However, the INSPQ still limits N-95 masks to medical procedures that generate droplets.  Let’s be clear, the current guidelines that limit the use of N-95 masks are partly responsible for the continued spread of COVID within our healthcare institutions.  It is serious and irresponsible to continue to do so. 

We are currently seeing it at the CISSS in Laval, where contamination in the workplace is threatening to bring down the Hospital from within.  This situation is likely to occur elsewhere, even throughout the province.

10 months of pandemic crisis

We welcome the open letter of the 400 specialists.  It is indeed the N-95 masks that the government and institutions should provide to anyone working in the yellow and red zones.

Since the beginning of the crisis, we have been missing :

– N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment.

– reagents for laboratory tests;

– laboratory equipment to carry out analyses in our public network;

– And now that we have a vaccine, we no longer have the capacity in our public institutions to produce it. 

There is a shortage of reagent products even though, early April, France donated a recipe to Canada (free of charge).  In December at the MUHC, we ran out of these products (reagents) and nearly 2000 tests were delayed.

What are we waiting for to mass-produce them?  

In short, for everything we vitally need, the government still relies solely on the will of the multinationals.  This is irresponsible and deprives us of the means of protection, analysis and capacity to produce vaccines, and only contributes to the spread of the virus and the prolongation of the pandemic crisis.

We need a type of Hydro-Québec for the healthcare sector to produce :

– N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment;

– swabs, reagents and laboratory equipment;

– vaccines

This is what the government carefully avoids talking about and, above all, acting on. The government simply issues instructions (distancing and mask) and shifts the entire responsibility for fighting the pandemic onto the shoulders of the citizens who must follow the instructions. 

Given the duration and extent of this crisis, it is increasingly clear that the current guidelines, while necessary, will not be sufficient to contain the pandemic. We will have to produce what we need ourselves to win this battle.

MUHCEU Union Executive

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