COVID-19 resources & information for Health Service Members
From the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC):
From the Ministry of Health:
COVID-19 News for Health Service Members
March 30, 2020
The Provincial Health Officer has ordered that movement between worksites by health care workers in some health care settings must be limited to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the current pandemic.
This order only affects you if you work in any of these four health care settings:
If you work in one of the above health care settings in addition to Community Health, you'll be contacted by another BCGEU email and your employer about what to do.
There is no restriction on working in Community Health, even if you work in one of the affected health care settings listed above.
Thank you for your incredible efforts to continue to provide vital health care services in the midst of this public health crisis.
If you have specific questions about COVID-19, please send your inquiries to [email protected] If you want to review current information from the BCGEU on COVID-19 please go to our information hub at www.bcgeu.ca/covid.
March 26, 2020
COVID-19 Update: Home support health and safety – Mar 26
The past few days have been challenging for us all, and we have heard from you that the COVID-19 outbreak is causing significant fear and anxiety. We want to start by acknowledging the important work you do to ensure your clients are safe and healthy. You are on the frontlines of this crisis, and it is critical that your health and safety is protected too.
We are in close communication with the health authorities to share your concerns and ensure that you have the information and equipment you need to work safely. Here are some key reminders and additional information for you:
When caring for your clients, always follow the safe work procedures your employer has provided you. If you have any questions or concerns, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.
Wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as required. If your client or family members are suspected or have tested positive for COVID-19, and are being isolated in their home, a higher level of caution and an up-to-date assessment of the risk to your health and safety is required. Patients that are suspected or positive for COVID should be managed with contact and droplet precautions, which includes putting on a gown, surgical/procedure mask, eye protection and gloves. Here is a more detailed explanation of the PPE requirements.
Your employer must provide you with the PPE that you need, and training on how to use it.
If you are not clear about the safe procedure for caring for your client and/or you do not have the PPE you need, stop and tell your supervisor immediately.
Encourage and support clients to practice hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene as much as possible. Regular handwashing and respiratory hygiene should be encouraged for all patients, and especially for patients who have signs and symptoms of an acute respiratory infection. Respiratory hygiene includes:
- Using tissues to cover the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing, with prompt disposal into a waste receptacle;
- Covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing against a sleeve/shoulder if a tissue is not available; and
- Wearing a mask when coughing or sneezing.
Tell your supervisor immediately if your client or other family members in the home show symptoms of COVID-19. If your client or other family members in the home have symptoms like coughing, sneezing, fever, sore throat and/or difficulty breathing, notify your supervisor before entering the home. If you have already entered the home, ensure your client is safe, then go outside and notify your supervisor immediately.
The employer must assess if it is safe for you to enter the home. Has the employer provided you with training and safe work procedures to deal with a possible COVID-19 case? Has the employer provided you with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE)? Have you received training on how to don/doff PPE? Has the employer given you direction on how to dispose of contaminated materials? Your employer must answer these questions BEFORE you do the work.
What if my supervisor tells me to go ahead, but I still feel unsafe?
If you feel your health and safety is at risk, you must refuse unsafe work. This may be the case if you are not provided with the proper PPE, and/or you have not received safe written work procedures, clear instruction or adequate supervision to carry out the work safely.
The first step is to tell your supervisor that you are refusing unsafe work. Then, your supervisor must investigate, and either fix the problem, or explain to you why they believe the work is safe. Inform your union steward or Occupational Health and Safety representative when you refuse unsafe work, so they can help you go through the proper steps.
Your right to refuse unsafe work is the law in British Columbia. To learn more about the refusal of unsafe work process, click here: https://www.bcgeu.ca/your_right_to_refuse_unsafe_work
Wash your hands often with soap and water – using hand sanitizer is not a substitute for regular handwashing. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer, has stressed that the best way we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 infection is to wash our hands properly (20 seconds with soap and water).
Physically distance yourself from others as much as possible. Where possible, physically distance yourself from others by 2 metres or 6 feet. Physically distancing yourself is impossible when you care for your clients, so this is why it is critical you always follow the safe work procedures at your workplace.
If you feel ill, stay home, and tell your supervisor immediately. Here is a self-assessment tool that can help you determine if you may have the Covid-19 virus: https://bc.thrive.health/.
We applaud you for your compassion, dedication and courage during this unprecedented crisis. We are here to support you and to help protect your health and safety. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us at [email protected]
More helpful resources can be found here:
BCGEU Covid-19 hub https://www.bcgeu.ca/covid
BC Government COVID-19 Support App https://bc.thrive.health/covid19app/home, or download from the App Store or Google Play
BC Centre for Disease Control http://covid-19.bccdc.ca/
Worksafe BC Covid-19 updates https://www.worksafebc.com/en/about-us/covid-19-updates
Public Health Agency of Canada Corona Virus https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
March 19, 2020
This week, LifeLabs has moved to provide PSC and mobile services to patients who screen positive for COVID-19. This includes patients that have tested positive for COVID-19 and screen positive as per the LifeLabs screening process.
We have heard from many members that are concerned about this change, and are worried about their health and safety when serving patients that have screened positive, so we have been in close communication with your employer to discuss this change.
We emphasized that it is critical for employees to receive adequate instruction and training when new procedures are introduced. In particular, this includes new cleaning/ housekeeping practices. We asked the employer how lineups and waiting areas will be managed in order to maintain social distancing. In addition, we made it clear that as some LifeLabs locations are closing or reducing hours, workers moving to new worksites must receive a full safety orientation at their new worksite before beginning work. The employer has committed to providing additional information, and we are awaiting their response. The employer has also committed to providing adequate time for workers to familiarize themselves, practice and ask questions about the new procedures.
It is important to note that the new procedures implemented by the employer involve contact and droplet precautions for interactions with patients. This includes separation and decontamination procedures for patients that screen positive. In addition, aerosol producing tests are not to be completed for patients that screen positive. The procedures implemented by the employer, including PPE requirements, align with infection control guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). As per the guidelines from these agencies, N95 masks are not required in this context.
We will continue to communicate with the employer about protecting the health and safety of our members at LifeLabs. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure workers are properly informed, trained, equipped and supervised when working in settings where there’s risk of exposure to COVID-19. The BCGEU expects that the employer will provide timely, specific and clear direction to workers on the infection control protocols they will follow to avoid exposure to the virus. We also expect the employer to ensure there is sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) on hand for workers, and provide the training to use it.
Workers should always apply a precautionary approach to their work, and consult a supervisor with any questions about protocols or the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). You have the right to express any health and safety concern to your employer, and to expect a response without undue delay.
You can reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- Follow your work site unit or employer infection control policies. If you are unsure about what’s needed, talk to your supervisor, before doing the task you are assigned.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear the required PPE for “droplet and contact precautions” before interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient.
- When interacting with a confirmed or suspected patient, ensure you’re wearing PPE including gloves, long-sleeved gown, a mask, and eye or face protection (safety glasses are not adequate).
- Ask for training or a refresher on how to don, doff and dispose of PPE correctly.
- If you do not have the PPE you need, stop and speak with your supervisor before proceeding.
- If your concerns are not resolved, talk to you EHS representative, your shop steward and your Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee representative (where applicable) about next steps.
- If you think you’ve been exposed, report to your employer immediately, following your incident report process.
- Stay home if you are experiencing the flu and common cold. This includes symptoms such as a cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat and difficulty breathing.
You are on the frontlines of this crisis, and we recognize and appreciate the tremendously important work you are doing. We will continue to do our part in supporting you during this unprecedented time.
March 17, 2020
The BCGEU is taking every measure to work with other unions, the Health Employers Association of BC, the Provincial Health Officer and government to ensure that health care workers are protected at their workplaces and in the community.
As information develops we will be keeping you informed. Please forward issues that you've been unable to resolve at the worksite level to the email [email protected].
All HEABC employers will allow you to cancel any approved leave scheduled to take place in the next 60 days (until May 12). This includes union leave, vacation, banked overtime and all other approved leaves.
For members employed by a health authority and Providence, no employer approval is required – cancellation is entirely at your discretion. If you are employed by an affiliate employer, you should make the request on the appropriate form to your employer as you would for any leave.
BCGEU President Stephanie Smith has appointed a COVID response team for the Health Sector.
BCGEU Treasurer Paul Finch is leading the team with Component Vice-Presidents Mahen Ramdharry and Scott De Long, Richard Consalvi from Component 8 and Cina Opel from Component 4. The team meets daily to coordinate and respond to issues that have been created by the crisis.
Your COVID-19 Health Sector Response Team
Download PDF of notice here