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NWT’s health authority ‘addressing staff questions’ over masks


The NWT’s health authority acknowledged new guidance for residents to wear masks in public has led to questions from staff, some of whom aren’t themselves told to use masks.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said last week that residents should now wear cloth coverings over their mouth and nose while in public places.

However, Cabin Radio understands some essential health workers have been asked not to wear masks at work, in part to avoid depleting the NWT’s stock of professional equipment.

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The health authority did not dispute the assertion that some healthcare staff in Inuvik were told they should not wear masks.

“With the change in guidance for the public in relation to homemade or cloth masks, it has raised a number of questions with our staff,” the authority said in a written statement on Friday.

“We are working to address [those questions] and will issue revised guidance in the coming days.”

As reported by Cabin Radio last week, the health authority says it has been working to ensure staff across the territory have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gowns, and gloves, and are trained to use PPE safely.

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But the health authority now says supplies of the equipment are low enough that steps are required to “limit over-usage.”

“We know that our staff are very interested in understanding where [the health authority] sits with regard to our supply levels,” the statement continued.

“It is a global reality at this time that PPE supply chains are being impacted by Covid-19, and we need to ensure our practices are evidence-based,” the authority said, in an apparent reference to its practice of asking some staff not to use masks.

“Ensuring appropriate PPE usage, and limiting over-usage, will help us protect our patients and staff both now and in the future should we see a surge in demand.”

The health authority said it had provided a string of updates on PPE use to staff and will continue doing so.

The latest guidance, provided to Cabin Radio last week and dated April 9, instructs staff to wear surgical masks and other protective equipment at a minimum while treating patients with suspected or confirmed Covid-19.

Almost all other cases, the guidance states, require “routine practices and additional precautions based on risk assessment” with staff having the “choice to wear a facemask.”

It’s not clear when this advice will next be updated.

The health authority said it was working to ensure “staff are safe and protected [and] PPE supplies are used appropriately to ensure sustainability of our supply.”

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