B.C. health authorities to revive 'mask mandate' for health-care workers: memo

The September 27 memo stops short of calling the directive a 'mandate' and lacks clarity on whether patients can be denied treatment for not wearing a mask.

B.C. health authorities to revive 'mask mandate' for healthcare workers: memo
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The B.C. Health Authorities are reviving draconian mask ‘mandates’ in all health-care settings, confirms a Health Ministry memo.

Global News and CTV both obtained the memo sent to frontline workers on the directive that is set to be announced Thursday.

Brian Sagar, executive director of communicable disease prevention and control for B.C., informed health-care workers Wednesday that, “in preparation for the viral respiratory illness [season] this fall and winter,” he expects hospitals, family doctors and clinics to implement masking, effective October 3.

“[Measures include] continuous medical masking by health-care workers, visitors, contractors, and volunteers in all patient, client, and resident care areas,” reads Sagar’s memo. However, it excludes long-term care facilities, which will encourage “vigorous hand washing” for all.

“Patients, clients, and residents will mask when directed by a health-care worker or based on personal choice,” it adds.

However, the memo stops short of calling the directive a “mandate” and lacks clarity on whether patients can be denied treatment for not wearing a mask. But it does clarify no occupancy limits for health-care facilities or rapid antigen testing (RAT) by health-care workers and patients. 

COVID-19 vaccine mandates remain in place for all health-care workers.

Global asked Health Minister Adrian Dix Wednesday for the rationale behind compulsory masking for workers.  “We’ve been talking about this for about a month that […] we would expect health-care settings to have masking [for the respiratory illness season],” he replied.

On Tuesday, Dix told CTV that 15,000 frontline workers call in sick each week compared to 9,000 before the pandemic.

Health officials are urging residents to get the COVID jab and flu shot to receive an added layer of defence against respiratory illnesses.

They anticipate a rollout for COVID shots and the flu vaccine by mid-October.

In an open letter Wednesday, a group of physicians, nurses and other health-care experts wrote they want universal masking to be reinstated in all emergency departments.

“As of September 8, 2023, 9,700 acute base beds were occupied. This is 700 beds above the seasonal average of 9,000. We all understand that surge beds without health-care workers to look after patients are nothing more than furniture,” reads the letter.

They state that COVID case numbers rose exponentially from the week of August 20 to the week of September 10, at 366 cases to 628, respectively. 

“Once again BC seniors, 60 years and older, are being (re)infected,” said the experts.

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