Hospital patients, people in long-term care to be tested for COVID-19 as healthcare workers plead for PPE

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Hospital patients, people in long-term care and retirement homes and health care workers will soon be tested for COVID-19.

That from Premier Doug Ford as he announced the province’s plans to ramp up plans for testing in the province. Yesterday about 5,000 tests were done across Ontario even though the province has the capability to test 13,000.

Ford says Ontario will double the number of tests processed each day to 8,000 by April 15 and 14,000 by April 29 when the province’s lab capacity is expanded.

The province has introduced an online portal where people can find the results of their COVID-19 tests.

Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, says local health care providers have been testing people with the most obvious symptoms, placing priority on healthcare workers. Lambton has been limiting test, he says, because the swabs to do the tests were not widely available until recently.

Many groups have been calling for increased testing, including unions representing health care workers.

Yesterday Michael Hurley president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions called for wide spread testing in the health field.

Michael Hurley, CUPE

Hurley says 11 per cent of the cases of COVID-19 are healthcare workers. “Doctors, paramedics, homecare workers, long term care workers and hospital staff are three per cent of the population but already we are at 11 per cent of the cases,” he says.

That compares to nine per cent of health care workers in Italy with the virus, 15 per cent in Spain and only three percent in China. Hurley says China treated COVID-19 as an airborne virus and made sure everyone had proper equipment including N95 masks. That is not happening in Ontario, says Hurley.

Workers across the province posted photos of themselves holding a sign with an N95 mask and the words Help Me.

Hurley says healthcare workers are “going to work bravely every day, most of them do not have access to have equipment to work safely.”

Mary, a long term care worker who did not want to be named, says she is constantly worried about the people in her nursing home and bringing the virus home to her family. “You’re constantly hoping you have cleaned yourself well enough.

“We should be wearing N95 masks, why are not wearing them,” she says.

“We are worried, we are scared for residents, for ourselves. If were not safe how can we keep our communities safe.”

And she pleaded with the premier to provide protective equipment to all health care workers.

“Please please step up and provide us with the PPE that we need to do our job and make sure we all stay safe.”

Speaking Saturday, Premier Ford said he wanted to make sure “everyone has the PPE that they need and were stocking up.”

Alberta has offered up some of its extra equipment and Ontario will be getting some of it. “I’m feeling more confident with the inventory we have.”

But he did not specifically say whether all healthcare workers including those in long-term care and retirement homes, would be getting the equipment they need.