In What World? PPE, Healthcare Workers and the Ontario State

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2079 ... May 4, 2020

‘In What World?’ PPE, Healthcare Workers and the Ontario State

Eric Tucker

In what world is a court order needed to require employers to provide front-line healthcare workers with the personal protective equipment (PPE) that they, in their professional judgment, relying on best practices and government directives, determine is needed to perform their jobs safely? Welcome to Ontario where on April 22, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Justice Morgan issued just such an order.

Why did unionized nurses at four long-term care facilities require such an order? To begin with, the dangers they face at work are palpable. Long-term care (LTC) facilities have been a hotbed of infection and a major source of fatalities in Ontario. In the facilities where these nurses are employed, scores of residents had contracted COVID-19 and dozens have died from their infection, and nurses have been infected, and at least one of whom needed to be hospitalized. The numbers are changing daily.

The chief medical officer of health for Ontario recognized the need for urgent... action and issued a series of Directives to address the crisis. One of these, Directive No. 5, issued and updated on April 10, included a requirement that healthcare workers must perform an assessment of every patient before every patient or resident interaction. Moreover, "if a healthcare worker determines … based on their professional and clinical judgment, that health and safety measures may be required in the delivery of care … then the [facility] must provide that healthcare worker with access to the appropriate health and safety control measures, including an N95 respirator."

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