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What you need to know about COVID-19: October 20, 2020
A Halifax man fears some staff at Nova Scotia Health medical testing facilities are not taking the need to wear masks seriously enough.
In an interview this week, Matthew Davidson said he and his wife Shayna have encountered people who were not wearing masks properly several times while they were having blood drawn and medical scans done.
The first happened Aug. 31 when they went to the Cobequid Community Health Centre for X-rays and CT scans. The person who met them at the front did not have a mask, nor did those at the registration desk. A staffer also “sneezed and spluttered” near them, he said.
“I would say the majority of front line people (did not wear masks properly),” Davidson said. “When we actually got into the X-ray room or the CT scan area, people were wearing masks there.”
He said that his wife again had people not wearing masks when she went for blood work on Sept. 1, and a phlebotomist ran his hand through his hair before trying to take blood. She asked for a different person to do it.
Exactly the same thing happened when he went for his own blood test on Sept. 4.
“I went through two phlebotomists,” Davidson said. “The first one was the lady who stuck her hands in her hair in front of me. The second one was the guy who did exactly the same thing to my wife, and I recognized him. I said 'I don't want you either, I want someone who's actually trained properly.' So they put me with a lady who'd actually been trained properly and she did a good job.”
Davidson detailed the incidents in an email exchange with NSH patient relations that he forwarded to Chronicle Herald, and while he was reassured in the exchange that the issues he raised were immediately remedied, he doesn't believe it.
He said he was told an email was circulated reminding staff of proper protocols.
“People don't pay attention to emails,” Davidson said. “I've worked in enough offices in my life to know that most people I've worked with don't bother to read emails. And that's obviously an issue when you're dealing with a life-threatening illness.”
On Sept. 15, his wife went to the Breast Health Clinic at the Halifax Shopping Centre, and again, a woman at the front desk was not wearing a mask properly, Davidson said.
“The last email I sent, I was extremely frustrated because, after going to all these medical places, my wife started to develop a scratchy throat and flu-like symptoms,” Davidson said.
They both had to take COVID-19 tests. Fortunately, they were both negative, he said. Still, they had to endure tremendous anxiety.
The patient relations rep did speak with Davidson by phone and assured him that training will take place but hadn't yet as of Sept. 10, he reminded her in a follow-up email exchange.
After relating the breast cancer experience in the email chain, the representative told him that facility was the responsibility of the IWK.
Davidson fears a potentially deadly second wave could be caused by “the very organization that should be preventing it.”
The patient relations representative was on vacation and not available to comment.
A Nova Scotia Health spokesperson said in an email to the Chronicle Herald that the NSH follows public health measures involving social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, and that universal masking for staff in clinical areas has been in place since April 7.
“Nova Scotia Health has created numerous educational resources, visual reminders, and messages to promote universal masking, including training videos, posters and messages from the CEO,” the email said. “When managers or supervisors become aware of or notice staff not following this directive, they follow up to reinforce the policy, provide education and work to support compliance.”
Ben Maycock, spokesman for the IWK, also emailed the policy regarding masks.
“All IWK staff who have face-to-face (direct) or indirect contact with patients or other health-care workers in a patient care area must wear a procedure/surgical mask,” it said, adding that staff may remove their mask in their regular workspace if they can maintain physical distance from others and follow all other public health guidelines.