COVID-19: Updates from Government; Eastern and Western Health

gmcneil Occupational Health & Safety

We know this is a very difficult time for public sector workers in all sectors — those on the front lines and behind the scenes, those who have been ordered to work from home, those working without child care, and those who are facing layoffs, not to mention the general anxiety as our world as we know it changes hour by hour. Staff and union executives are working very hard to make sure important information is shared with our members and that members’ concerns are responded to as quickly as possible.

I have been attending conference calls with government and other unions on a regular basis and our concerns are being heard. These meetings will continue as long as necessary as we work out the details of how this pandemic will be managed with minimal harm to public sector employees.

We appreciate everything you are doing to hold it together. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is anything I can do to help.

Please read the important information below for the latest updates from Eastern and Western Health.

Stay safe, and be well,

Sherry Hillier
CUPE NL President

COVID-19 UPDATES from the Provincial Government

  • On March 18, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador declared a Public Health Emergency which enables the government to enforce the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s recommendations for the public.
  • As of today (Monday, March 23, 2020) long-term care homes in the province will be closed to all visitors. This decision will be reviewed daily.
  • All retail must close except those businesses that provide for life or safety of people or animals.
  • No gatherings of more than 10 people, including funerals, wakes, and weddings.
  • There are now 24 confirmed or presumptive cases in the province — most in the Eastern Health region with a few in the Labrador-Grenfell and Central Health regions.
  • The Canadian Red Cross is partnering with the provincial government to support people in Newfoundland and Labrador who are impacted by the need to self-isolate. This service is available to all residents and visitors in the province impacted by the direction to self-isolate to limit the transmission of COVID-19. The number is 1-800-863-6582.

Social Distancing

  • The provincial and federal governments continue to stress the importance of social distancing. Social distancing means limiting your physical contact with other people in order to stop, slow down or contain the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a part to play in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Find out more about what social distancing means on the Government of Canada’s website.
  • Social distancing is a measure that helps reduce the spread of illness and allows the health-care system to respond and manage the COVID-19 pandemic more effectively.
  • We know that elderly people are particularly vulnerable to this virus. Under no circumstances should anyone who is feeling unwell go into a long-term care facility or visit the elderly at home. You are encouraged to call or video-call instead.

EASTERN HEALTH

  • Work-from-home options for those staff who are not needed in our facilities are being explored. Further information will be shared as it becomes available.
  • Staff who have been approved by their manager to receive a cell phone allowance for use of a personal device should submit a signed travel claim form for reimbursement via payroll.

COVID-19 Clinic

  • There is now a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic at St. Teresa’s School on Mundy Pond Road in St. John’s.
  • The clinic is by appointment only and will collect samples from individuals who have been referred to the clinic.
  • This mobile drive-thru clinic operates seven days a week.
  • Individuals remain in their vehicles while nurses collect samples.
  • For anyone who is unable to attend the drive-through clinic, other arrangements are being made for testing.
  • Depending on demand, additional clinics throughout the region may be put in place.
  • We are also exploring ways to reconfigure the clinic design and set-up due to the anticipated weather conditions for this week; we continue to work on this and monitor weather conditions closely.

Human Resources

  • For unionized employees, normal Collective Agreement provisions regarding pay, benefits, etc. will apply as it relates to COVID-19. Please reach out to your manager if you have any questions, or contact your union representative.

Workplace Health and Safety

As a regional health authority, we are here to serve the public. And, in order to do that safely, we all have a responsibility to ensure that the needed personal protective equipment (PPE) is available to our colleagues as they care for those impacted by this virus.

The “PPE” includes, gowns, masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, face shields and wipes. Within our RHA, these supplies, like everywhere globally, are in short supply. The Regional Health Authorities have worked together to ensure a coordinated and appropriate distribution of equipment deemed critical for the COVID-19 pandemic response. Ensuring an adequate supply and appropriate use of equipment is a priority for all RHAs.

To support this, please keep in mind the following:

  • While there is a heightened level of anxiety around COVID-19, we need to work together to ensure that PPE use is only for priority RHA operations.
  • Throughout our health facilities, we need to secure the PPE items in a safe location only accessible by authorized staff.
  • If you see PPE being used inappropriately, you are empowered to voice your concerns or raise it with a colleague/manager so that action can be taken to make it available for those who need it most.
  • Each RHA has implemented criteria so that only priority areas receive and use it. We ask that you support this.

The provincial supply chain continues to work on increasing the supply of PPE and we thank you for your patience and understanding on this matter. We know that our health-care workers are among the best in the world, working together we will adapt and overcome these challenges.

  • If you have questions or concerns around fit testing, please speak to your manager or email mysafety@easternhealth.ca, Tel: 709 777-7777 pathway 3 -3.
  • Employees with concerns about workplace safety, as always, should follow procedures detailed under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Contact a member of your site Occupational Health and Safety Committee for more information.
  • Our Occupational Health Nursing Team has responded to over 600 employee and physicians calls since last Thursday to guide employees with acute respiratory symptoms or those returning from international travel.

Travel

  • Health-care workers returning from out of province travel as of 12:01 a.m. March 20, 2020 must not return to work. Please report your absence from work by calling Eastern Health’s Central Occupational Health Nurse at (709) 777-7777, line 3, then line 2, to register. You will be advised on your self-isolation procedure and return to work details.

Self-isolation

  • If you have been tested for COVID-19, please self-isolate and do not report to work.
  • Speak to your manager if you have concerns with other staff members who are not self-isolating as required by the measures put forward by the Provincial Government’s response to COVID-19.

Payroll

  • Due to wide social distancing measures, including temporary work-from-home arrangements, the finance team is urging employees to sign-up for automated bank deposits (also referred to as EFT payments) to avoid delays in your payroll. To get started please, email your employee number accompanied by either a VOID cheque or an official bank document that shows your account number, branch number and institution number to payroll.services@easternhealth.ca. If you have questions on this process, please email your questions to payroll.services@easternhealth.ca or call 709-752-4096.

WESTERN HEALTH

  • Testing sites have been activated in Corner Book and Stephenville, by appointment only.
  • Plans are being finalized for Assessment and Treatment centers at Corner Brook Civic Centre Studio and Bay St. George Medical Clinic to divert patients with respiratory illness from emergency departments and primary care clinics.
  • The provincial government and NLMA reached an arrangement for virtual care. Western Health is finalizing plans to implement virtual care in priority areas.
  • While there is a heightened level of anxiety around COVID-19, we need to work together to ensure that PPE use is only for priority RHA operations, not for personal use (outside of the RHA).
  • If you see PPE being used inappropriately, you are empowered to voice your concerns or raise it with a colleague/manager so that the inappropriate use of PPE is stopped.
  • Work is ongoing to implement social distancing practices in our waiting rooms within our facilities, including the removal of chairs and creating distance between chairs.
  • A fit-tested N95 respirator (including eye protection) should be used by all health care workers when aerosol-generating medical procedures (AGMPs) are being performed on a person under investigation for COVID-19 infection.
  • If you work in one of the priority target areas including ED, ICU, Medicine, Paramedicine, Maternal Newborn, Public Health, or as a physician, and have not been fit tested, please contact Employee Wellness Health & Safety at (709) 784-5100 immediately.
  • We are receiving a number of inquiries from staff about working from home. We are working as quickly as possible to respond to these requests. Please reach out to your manager or to Human Resources if you have any concerns or questions.
  • All health care workers returning from out of province travel as of March 20, 2020 should not return to work. Please report your absence from work as per usual processes.
  • There’s so much uncertainty about COVID-19 and you may understandably feel anxious. Please prioritize self care and focus on your well-being. Read a book, have a warm bath, take a walk or work on getting plenty of rest.
  • If you are finding it difficult to cope and need to reach out, please call 1-866-784-5306 to speak to an EAP Counsellor.