Face masks safe for long-term care home staff, says Fairfield Park boss

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Face masks that raised the ire of union officials have been tested and found safe to wear at Wallaceburg’s Fairfield Park long-term care home, says administrator Tracey Maxim.

Independent laboratory tests confirmed the masks are safe to use in long-term care homes, Maxim said in a statement on Feb. 24.

They met all requirements for Level 1 medical face masks as set out by Health Canada and the province, despite arriving in a mislabelled box, she said.

“We are pleased to put this unfortunate incident behind us, and we remain committed to providing a safe and rewarding workplace for our staff and a safe and comforting home for our residents,” she said.

The facility has had 100 cases during a COVID-19 outbreak declared Jan. 10. On Feb. 24, there were only two active cases – one in a resident and one in a staff member.

Two residents have died of COVID-19 during the outbreak.

On Feb. 4, Unifor Local 2458 president Tullio DiPonti said Fairfield Park put workers at risk by giving them non-medical masks that weren’t taken out of circulation until the union objected to their use.

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DiPonti said last Wednesday that the union wanted to do its own independent tests but were not given any masks. Union officials were told they’d been discarded, he said.

“Here’s our problem: I don’t have (any) doubt that they got a mask tested, but we were never involved,” he said. “Our health and safety people were not involved in which masks were sent out.”

DiPonti said he didn’t understand how only one home received a mislabelled box.

“I have to take them for their word, but I know what was written on the masks and what was written in the box. … They were not for medical. That’s why we want to make sure. How the coronavirus was spread in that home? We attribute it to the masks,” he said.

The test results have been shared with the ministries of Labour and Long-Term Care, the Chatham-Kent public health unit and the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, as well as Fairfield Park’s health and safety committee, staff and union partners, Maxim said.

The Ministry of Labour inspected the home after the masks were delivered and “found Fairfield Park to be in good standing on all infection prevention and control measures, including our screening practices, hand hygiene, surveillance testing, environmental cleaning, cohorting efforts, use of personal protective equipment, access to N95s and physical distancing measures,” Maxim said.

Fairfield Park staff have made a video thanking the community for its support during the outbreak. They’re shown holding messages of gratitude and appreciation.

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