Nurses union calls for sufficient provision of protective gear

February 12, 2020 16:10
Lawmaker Joseph Lee (C) has reminded the Hospital Authority to strictly follow its own guidelines so as to ensure the safety of healthcare workers and patients amid the coronavirus fight. Photo: HKEJ

A nurses union has called for adequate supplies of protective gear for workers involved in the fight against the China coronavirus, warning of cross-infection risks due to a potential shortage of such items.

The union said it will push for remedial measures but won't begin a strike or work to rule over the matter.

On Tuesday, the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff held a special meeting for its members to discuss possible actions as a follow-up to the strike launched by members of the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance last week.

The association's chairman Joseph Lee Kok-long, a lawmaker who represents the Health Services functional constituency, told media after the meeting that its members unanimously agreed that they won't go on strike or stage a slowdown even as they press their demands.

But pressure will be kept on the Hospital Authority (HA) to ensure that all nursing staff get sufficient protective gear that can help them battle the Wuhan virus, now officially called Covid-19.

According to Lee, the association's members will demand the HA follow the infection control measures and provide, from Thursday, each patient at least two masks and frontline medial workers at least four sets of masks and protective clothing per day.

Nurses can call the association's hotline when there's insufficient protection gear at their workplace, and the union will convey the situation to the HA.

Lee pointed out that the action is intended to urge the HA to strictly follow its own guidelines so as to ensure safety of both healthcare workers and patients.

Lee noted that they're not trying to cause a staff shortage, but that as a responsible employer, the HA needs to meet with the workers, RTHK reported.

On a radio program on Wednesday morning, Lee said the action the union takes is not intended to trigger any conflicts among frontline healthcare workers.

As far as nurses who need to look after isolated patients are concerned, Lee told the radio program that the HA standards have to be implemented, adding that all the protective gear has to be changed after medical procedures are completed each time, so as to ensure reducing the cross-infection risk within the hospital.

In related news, the Hong Kong Nurses General Union has written to the HA expressing concern over the performance of the healthcare workers who returned to work from a week-long strike that ended last Friday.

The union said if any of the medical workers show defiant behavior, such person should be advised, warned or even subject to disciplinary action.

In addition, the union suggested that the HA should strengthen efforts to monitor the usage and storage of masks and protective clothing in order to prevent such items from being stolen or misused.

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