Client’s COVID-19 diagnosis being kept from home care workers, union says

WINNIPEG — The union representing home care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority says its members aren’t being told when they’re going into the home of someone who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees 204 has filed a grievance over the matter and dozens of others related to access to personal protective equipment for home care workers and other healthcare support.

“We have had a member, a support worker on the frontlines, call us to tell us that when they were in the home they found out through the family that the person that they were caring for was COVID positive,” said CUPE 204 president Debbie Boissonneault, who represents 14, 000 support workers within WRHA and Shared Health hospitals, facilities and home care services. “I believe that the employer should be providing that information to them.”

“They’re visiting the most vulnerable and people need to understand they go from home to home, so if they visit someone who was COVID positive but didn’t know and they’re going into another home right after they could be taking it with them.”

The WRHA said its aware of the grievance but declined to comment on the specifics of the union’s concern.

“We will not discuss the details or particulars of the grievance in the media but will reserve those discussions to be had directly with CUPE as we work towards a resolution of their concerns,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

A scheduling clerk, who sets up the visits between home care workers and clients within the WRHA, spoke to CTV News on the condition of anonymity. The scheduling clerk said they’ve been directed by managers not to tell healthcare workers that a client has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“All we can tell them is to wear droplet PPE which consists of a regular surgical mask, a gown, gloves and the eyewear visor,” the scheduling clerk said. “I didn’t feel comfortable with this because they should know that the patient is COVID positive.”

“It’s health and safety. We’re risking these workers for contracting COVID. Not only that, they’re going and seeing other patients in the community.”

Asked whether home care workers should have this information, chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin deferred to the question to the WRHA but pointed to the importance of PPE.

“When we’re caring for clients in high-risk settings, that’s the whole purpose for the universal PPE wearing,” said Roussin. “We know there’ll be people without symptoms who might be infectious for a short period of time. There might be people with very mild symptoms that don’t recognize it and so we just wear the PPE universally and that will protect the person wearing it and if it’s medical PPE, it protects the people that they’re seeing.”

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