Alberta Health Services says it decontaminating some N95 masks should the urgent need for more come for the province’s health care workers.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) — With the peak of COVID-19 infections expected to hit Alberta by the middle of May, Alberta Health Services (AHS) is taking a step to make sure they are well-stocked with N95 respirators.

A statement from AHS said they are collecting some used masks from ICUs in Calgary and Edmonton for decontamination.

The sanitized masks will be stored and reused in case supplies run low in the coming months.

AHS added the masks will not be recirculated at this time and it’s unlikely they will need to resort to using them, but this is a precautionary measure.

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Only a particular model of N95 respirators, used by about 80 per cent of health care workers, are being sanitized as they have been shown to withstand the steam sanitization process.

If this process proves successful, the masks may be collected from other facilities around Alberta.

Also, used masks that are ripped, soiled or have damaged elastics will still be thrown in the garbage and AHS says staff in ICUs have been given education on what should and should not go in the N95 recycling bin.

The province has said there is ample supply of masks, and other personal protective equipment (PPE), to last until at least the end of May and there are orders for more supplies.

Recently, thousands of masks and millions of gloves were sent to other provinces to beef up their supplies.

There is no concern among the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) that there will be a shortage, and staff at health care facilities should have the proper supplies to stay protected.

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However, there have been some reports of managers rationing masks out of an unfounded concern that there is a shortage.

“That message hasn’t gotten all the way out to all managers and some health care workers, and especially some of our members, are still struggling to have access to personal protective equipment such as masks that they need when they need it,” said UNA Vice-President Danielle Larivee.

Larivee said that the union is on the same page with the province on this issue, and there have been assurances made that workers should be supplied with proper PPE.

She added they are contacting managers when made aware of this to make sure the record is set straight.

“Sometimes, when things are changing so quickly, it takes a while for that policy to make its way to every person within large organizations.”

“So our challenge now is just that consistency and dealing with the perception that there’s not enough when that’s not the case.”

Source: AHS sanitizing N95 respirators for potential reuse

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