NSGEU calls on government to protect front-line workers at Northwood amid coronavirus outbreak

The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) says nurses redeployed to Northwood Manor amid a coronavirus outbreak at the home are reporting concerns about the health and safety of vulnerable seniors due to poor infection control and limited safety protocols at the facility.

“Our members are telling us it was like walking into a war zone,” NSGEU president Jason MacLean said in a news release Wednesday.

The Halifax long-term care home has been getting additional help from nurses and other health-care workers from hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations after the president and CEO of Northwood, Janet Simm, announced on Monday that its staff cannot handle the outbreak alone.

Over the weekend, the province ordered the COVID-19 unit at the Halifax Infirmary to move to Northwood.

Northwood reported its eighth death connected to the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The union says its members are working at two coronavirus-positive units, one an 11th-floor unit with a capacity of 16 and an occupancy of 12 residents, and the other a first-floor unit with a capacity of 22-23 beds that is fully occupied.

“When they got to Northwood there was no supplies for them, actually yesterday, they were down to three gowns, and the first night they were there, they ran out of wipes and ran out of Purell, so just the basic necessities weren’t even provided,” MacLean told Global News.

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He went on to say that a lot of the residents, who are considered sick or presumed infected, at Northwood are walking around the place, trying to use the phone and touching everything.

At Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing, chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang said the province is addressing all legitimate concerns, but says he’s spoken with an infection control practitioner at Northwood who says there is no validity to the NSGEU’s complaint.

“I’m very concerned how they are taking concerns publicly, they are using fear-mongering and hyperbole in how they are addressing the situation,” said Strang.

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