Protecting Healthcare Workers from COVID

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Government on the verge of criminal negligence.

According to a study by the INSPQ, a quarter of the people infected by the COVID in Quebec are health care workers :

Between March 1 and June 14, 2020, 13,581 healthcare workers were confirmed to have COVID -19, representing a quarter of the cases reported in Quebec during the first wave of COVID -19. Eleven of these healthcare workers (0.08%) died. Their risk of contracting COVID-19 was approximately 10 times higher than that estimated for the rest of the population.

Thus, the INSPQ confirms that for health care personnel, the risk of contracting COVID is 10 times higher than in the general population.  This is very serious.

With such figures, the government considers itself to be a good manager of the network during this crisis!

But… the government has a defense; “no one could have known“, this pandemic “took everyone by surprise“.  Really! 

And yet…

As early as 1999, the World Health Organization WHO published the first standards for pandemic prevention and management.  

In 2002, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS-CoV, infected 8096 people and causes 774 deaths in 29 countries.

In response to this epidemic the WHO published a plan in 2005: WHO global influenza preparedness plan.

In 2006, the MSSS du Québec published the Plan québécois de lutte à une pandémie (Québec Pandemic Plan) of influenza based on WHO standards.

From April 2009 to August 2010, an influenza A (H1N1) pandemic infected between 700 million to 1.9 billion people and causes between 151,700 and 575,400 deaths at international level.

In 2013, following the H1N1 crisis, the WHO updated the standards in a document entitled Pandemic Influenza Risk Management WHO Interim Guidance .

In 2017, the WHO publishes a Guide for Informed Decision-Making and Harmonization for all countries, nationally and internationally .

Since 2006, successive Quebec governments have never implemented the WHO recommendations, nor the 2009, 2013 and 2017 revisions.

The crisis takes us by surprise….

In December 2019 the virus is detected in China. The sequencing of its DNA is publicly shared by the Chinese on January 10, 2020.

On January 22, 2020, the WHO indicates for the first time that elderly people with co-morbidities are the most vulnerable to the new coronavirus.

On January 26, 2020, a first case of the new coronavirus is identified in Canada.

On January 30, 2020, the WHO declares that the new coronavirus is a global health emergency.

On February 5, 2020, the Director General of the WHO, declared that the international community has a window of opportunity to act quickly and avoid a pandemic of new coronavirus.

On February 28, 2020, the first suspected case of COVID-19 is announced in Quebec.

Meanwhile, in Quebec, the government does nothing.  It should have, because the 2006 MSSS plan outlined a scenario in which a pandemic influenza in Quebec could infect 2.6 million people, require 34,000 hospitalizations and cause 8,500 deaths, while generating a staff shortage linked to a 30 to 35% absenteeism rate of employees in the health system (see note #3).

Despite this, between January 6 and March 11, the government did not activate any of the measures in its 2006 plan.  

Then, we will witness a catastrophic improvisation with decrees forcing employees to work everywhere, without testing them, without providing them with N-95 masks etc…. It took months of union pressure to stop the movement of personnel.  The decrees were a response from those who didn’t know what to do, at least they seemed to be acting!

These improvised measures contributed to spreading the pandemic throughout the health network.  As of December 22, approximately 7,200 network employees are currently contaminated and Le Devoir predicts that we will soon reach the figure of 30,000 health care employees infected with COVID.

Government policy has made Quebec one of the worst places in the world for the contamination of seniors and healthcare workers.  

To defeat the pandemic we need :

  1. That all employees working in a yellow or red zone have an N95 mask in addition to gloves, a gown and a visor.
  2. That N-95 masks be available in sufficient quantities at all times.
  3. that each health care worker be tested once a week. 

And, in order to stabilize the work teams

  • All PAB positions (all sites) are converted to full-time positions on a voluntary basis.
    • for all category 2 and 3 job titles, no rotational positions and all positions on a single unit/site

We will soon come back to other types of measures that the government should put in place so that Quebec can give itself the tools to fight the pandemic.

Union Executive MUHCEU-CSN

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