Shortage?

N95 respirator masks are in heavy demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Is Kelowna General Hospital desperately short of face masks and rubber gloves during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Are health-care workers being asked to reuse face masks that aren’t meant to be worn again?

According to a health-care worker who wishes to remain anonymous, the hospital is low on N95 respirator masks, the heavy-duty masks that protect from airborne particles and liquid contamination such as viruses and bacteria.

She also said workers are being asked to use one mask for multiple patients when the norm has been a mask per patient.

“It’s endangering us,” said the worker.

“I’m scared to go into work and I’m scared for co-workers who have more contact with the public.”

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says extended use and reuse of N95 masks is acceptable if they’re not contaminated, and facilities are conserving supplies in events like a pandemic.

On Monday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the province had received a shipment of one million surgical masks to alleviate the shortage being reported at care facilities.

“We can’t go specifically into personal protection equipment supplies at every site,” said Interior Health spokesperson Susan Duncan in an email.

“But, we can assure residents there are processes in place to ensure personal protective equipment and other required supplies are distributed appropriately across Interior Health.”

In response to the unprecedented demand for medical supplies in B.C. in the COVID-19 crisis, the province has established a centralized supply process to make sure all facilities are well stocked.

Interior Health has started to collect used, disposable N95 masks from acute care sites, and is sterilizing them and storing them in case they are needed as emergency backup to regular inventory.

The B.C. Ministry of Health is working with the federal government to make sure all facilities have the personal protective equipment they need.

The Provincial Health Services Authority has formed a team to manage the offers from manufacturers and distributors from all over the world to supply the health-care system.

The Hospital Employees’ Union has been assured by Interior Health that there are adequate supplies for all workers.