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MONTREAL – The order of the national director of public health Horacio Arruda limiting the wearing of N95 masks to certain circumstances is challenged in the Superior Court: health workers want to invalidate it, considering themselves poorly protected.
By restricting the procedures in which these masks can be worn, the order has endangered the safety of workers, increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19, is it alleged in the proceedings.
The request was filed this week by several parties, including the Interprofessional Health Federation of Quebec (FIQ) and the Interprofessional Health Federation of Quebec – Private Sector (FIQP).
The order concerned dates from June 8: it provides that the N-95 masks must be reserved for a situation where an IMGA (Medical Interventions Generating Aerosols) is performed. The INSPQ speaks in particular of tracheal intubation and extubation, bronchoscopy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and manual ventilation before intubation, among other medical procedures.
In other cases, protection must be provided by a surgical or procedural mask, it is ordered.
According to the Federations, the ordinance limits the use of N95 masks, which lessens respiratory protection measures for nursing staff instead of enhancing them. Shortages of these N95 masks punctuated the COVID-19 pandemic.
The order is also contrary to previous publications and recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec (INSPQ), it is alleged in the procedure.
To invalidate the order, the parties raise several arguments.
First, it is alleged that Mr. Arruda, as the national director of public health, did not have the power to make such an order.
In addition, it is raised that it infringes the rights of nurses and other health workers who are protected by the Quebec Charter and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by attacking their integrity, their health and their safety, and in turn, that of patients.
“Since the start of the pandemic, we have had to fight for access to the protective equipment that healthcare professionals need. The virus is still unknown, airborne transmission is likely: it is therefore essential to apply the principle of optimal precaution, and to protect the personnel, especially in the perspective of a second wave “, affirmed in a press release Linda Lapointe , the vice-president of the FIQ.
“Public health has caused confusion by changing its recommendations according to equipment stocks and not necessarily taking into account the scientific literature. This prescription is not based on best prevention practices and must be invalidated, ”she adds.
A quarter of COVID-19 cases in Quebec affect healthcare workers, she said.