Sign in

AUPE slams unsafe surgical masks, says nationalize PPE production

AUPE says shoddy surgical masks during pandemic are proof Alberta needs publicly run manufacturing of PPE

Apr 18, 2020

PPE needs to be made in-house to ensure quality control, says Slade

Text only block

MEDIA RELEASE: AUPE slams unsafe surgical masks and calls for nationalization of PPE production

EDMONTON - Vice-President of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) Susan Slade says shoddy surgical masks delivered at the eleventh hour to the front lines of the pandemic are proof Alberta’s health-care system needs to be publicly run all the way – from medical supplies' production to acute care – if we’re going to weather this storm.

“Quality care doesn’t begin and end in hospitals, and this mask issue is highlighting that,” she says.

The botched surgical masks were part of the $200-million shipment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Health Minister Tyler Shandro promised to the front lines in a press conference on April 11.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) purchased the items from manufacturing giants across the globe. Over the last week PPE deliveries arrived at AHS facilities. Since then, health-care workers from multiple sites have taken to social media calling out poor craftsmanship of PPE and saying the government did not deliver on its promise.

Staff are reporting surgical masks that do not seal their faces properly, pinch their noses and straps that fall apart during patient care. Many have also experienced nausea, headaches, skin rashes and throat irritation after wearing the masks, which have an unpleasant and overwhelming odour. Some sites have started sending stock back.

“This is the kind of delay we absolutely can’t afford,” says Slade. “Our political leaders need to understand that in a pandemic every second counts. Every glitch adds up. And it puts lives at risk.”

This is more than a glitch though, the AUPE Vice-President and LPN says: “It’s another example of the Alberta Government putting their corporate connections before care.”

At a time when the Federal Government is retooling local industry to create a reliable source of PPE and medical supplies close to home, the UCP are turning to an increasingly unstable global market for critical equipment that has to travel across vast expenses of air, land and sea to get into the hands of Alberta workers.

“The only way we can truly ensure quality control and timely distribution of PPE is if it’s manufactured in-house, in Alberta, and overseen by a public body. This is what our union wants to see, and it’s what Albertans deserve.”

Slade says otherwise, brave frontline workers and the sick Albertans they’re trying to support pay the price.

“Premier Jason Kenney touted the centralized ‘purchasing power’ of AHS. Well, we say until every point of delivery in the health-care system is brought in-house, the government is only paying lip-service to centralization,” says Slade.

“Working Albertans on the front lines of the COVID-19 struggle are heroes. They deserve gratitude but even more than that, they deserve PPE that keeps them healthy and safe while they fight to save lives, not shoddy, unusable, unhealthy stop gap measures.”

AUPE represents 95,000 working Albertans. About half work in health-care. The union is reminding members that without proper safety equipment they have the right to refuse unsafe work.


For more information:

Celia Shea, Communications                        780-720-8122

News Category

  • Media release


  • Health care

Related articles