FAQ: Covid-19 (coronavirus)

Welcome to the SEIU-West COVID-19 FAQ page. At this page, you will find answers to common questions SEIU-West members have during this pandemic. We will be updating this information regularly as information is provided.

Have a question you’d like answered? Be sure to contact the Member Resource Centre (MRC) by phone at 1.888.999.7348 ext. 2298 (province-wide) or use our online contact form

 

What supports are there for workers during COVID-19?

SEIU-West has put together a list of COVID-19 resources that may be useful for you. Click on this link to learn more. 

I'm struggling with my mental health during COVID-19, do you have any resources?

SEIU-West has developed a Mental Health Support During COVID-19 page in order to reassure you that you’re not alone, and that there are many resources that can help you during this challenging time. For SEIU-West members who are a part of the 3sHealth Extended Health Care plan, coverage for mental health services will double, effective June 1, 2020.

I work for the SHA and I hear the SHA is expanding their broadcast system to share urgent COVID-19 updates to staff – how do I sign up?

The SHA is expanding their broadcast system to the entire province. It will be used to share urgent COVID-19 updates to staff. To make sure that you are getting the information you need, please go to www.mygatewayonline.com if your workplace is in one of the following former health regions: Saskatoon Health Region, Cypress Health Region, Five Hills Health Region, or Heartland Health Region. Be sure to check that your contact information is correct, and please share this information with your SHA coworkers. They began test broadcasts the week of March 23, 2020 so if you did not receive messaging, please follow the steps to update your information.

What is the PPE protocol and do I have the right to refuse if I’m not provided proper PPE, told when I need to use precautions or feel I’m in an unsafe situation?

As of April 14, the SHA has released PPE guidelines for those working in the health care sector and Extendicare facilities. 

Going forward, recommendations for Continuous face mask use and Extended use of face masks and eye protection are now as follows:

*Continuous face mask use: all health care workers who come into contact with patients during the course of their shift must wear a face mask at all times.

*Extended use of face masks and eye protection is the practice of wearing the same face mask and eye protection for repeated interactions with multiple patients for the maximum of one complete shift.

Be sure to read the guidelines specific to your workplace here

If there is a barrier to your ability to access this PPE, you need to report to your manager that you can’t and won’t do the work without the appropriate PPE.  If you are not then provided the necessary PPE, you need to advise your manager that you are formally refusing to do the work further to the right to refuse work of an unusually dangerous nature to yourself or others.   This will trigger the process involving assessment by your site OH&S committee and others, to ensure your work is made safe before you are required to perform it. For more information on the right to refuse, click here

I have to go to work but with the schools closed, what can I do about child care?

The government of Saskatchewan has published information about child care and eligibility - click this link to learn more
For information on how to apply for a child care space, click this link.

I understand there are child care centres available to critical workers, where are these centres located?

The Government of Saskatchewan has provided a list here. We will update this information as we receive it.  

What should I do if I can’t access childcare for my children who are out of school or I can’t afford it?

Before engaging in this process, contact the MRC through our website https://www.seiuwest.ca/contact or by phone 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298. You should submit documentation to your Employer verifying your inability to access childcare, and they would then need to work through their formal process to determine what mechanism would be utilized to grant you that time away, and what sorts of income supports you would then have access to.  In the meantime, you may need to access some form of pressing necessity leave until the formalities could be worked out.  

If I contract COVID-19 at work, do I receive WCB or do I have to use my sick time?

If you contract COVID-19 at work, you can file a claim with the WCB (Workers Compensation Board). Check their FAQ here. If they deny your claim, please contact your SEIU-West Member Resource Centre (MRC) for advice on next steps. Contact the MRC through our website https://www.seiuwest.ca/contact or by phone 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298.

My employer has told me I’m being laid off. Now what?

Your collective bargaining agreement (CBA) may have language about what the employer must do to ensure proper process in laying off workers, and what income supports you may be entitled to.  You can find your CBA here (scroll down to find your workplace), or call the MRC at 1-888-999-7348 ext 1 for more information.

You may be eligible to apply for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits, and there may be other income supports you can access. There’s information and a list of useful links to such federal and provincial programs here. That link also has information about supports you can access if you aren’t able to work because you’re sick, or if you’re forced to self-isolate.

Can I self-isolate because I am immunocompromised or have family members that are immunocompromised?

Before engaging in this process, contact the MRC through our website https://www.seiuwest.ca/contact or by phone 1-888-999-7348 ext. 2298. You certainly have the ability to submit documentation to your Employer to support a request for absence from the workplace, however the Employer would then need to work through their formal process to determine what mechanism would be utilized to grant you that time away, and what sorts of income supports you would then have access to. In the meantime, you may need to access some form of pressing necessity leave until the formalities could be worked out.   

I work for the SHA, how are my vacation requests being handled during COVID-19?

Please refer to this SHA/SEIU-West memo that was updated April 22, 2020. 

I work for the SHA and I don’t need my approved vacation now because I can’t travel anyway. Can I cancel it?

For SHA, we have verbal mutual agreement between the parties that all vacation cancellation requests will be considered on the basis of operational ability to cancel, and where there would be no harm to any member, the vacation would be cancelled. Harm to a member that may block the cancellation would include such things as another member being guaranteed hours to back-fill the original vacation period. 

What are the steps in exercising my right to refuse?

SEIU-West has put together a right to refuse resource - check it out here.

The SHA has introduced a new policy that screens all frontline health care workers before their shift in the long term care sector – if I’m deemed unfit in this screening, do I have to use my sick leave?

If you’re sick and unable to work and it isn’t related to COVID19, you would use your sick bank.  If you’re sick and it’s related to COVID19 and you were exposed at work, language in many collective agreements provides for payment without reduction of sick leave credits for Ministry of Health ordered quarantine, or for being prohibited from working as a result of exposure to infectious disease as a result of employment.  It may take some time for the type of sickness to be determined, or the exposure to be traced.  During that time, your Employer may code you sick pay but then you would seek that coding to be changed to reflect appropriate pay for COVID19-related illness if that is positively confirmed. 

My supervisor tells me that we don’t need to wear gloves or gowns anymore when caring for patients/residents with MRSA or VRE. I’m concerned about the safety of this change. Why is the SHA doing this? What can I do?

SEIU-West has heard these concerns from many of our LPNs and CCAs. Short answer: the SHA wants to save on gloves and gowns. They claim this new policy is safe, so long as care workers practice good hand hygiene. However, after reviewing the scientific literature, we’ve reached a different conclusion. On April 17 we sent a letter to the SHA (click here to read it) expressing our concerns that this policy change was unwise, and urging them to reconsider. As of April 22 we have received no response. As a health care worker you have the right to refuse work that you believe to be unsafe—click here for more information on the process for exercising that right. Also, as an LPN you have the right to use your clinical and professional judgment—we have contacted SALPN for their opinion on this policy change, and are still waiting for their response. We will update this post if/when we hear back from the SHA and/or SALPN.

I work for Home Care and another long term care (LTC) facility – am I exempt from the new cohorting rule?

No – home care staff are not exempt from being cohorted if they also work in LTC. Therefore, if you are cohorted to the LTC home, you cannot work in Home Care – if you’re assigned to work in Home care, you cannot work at the LTC. The only exemption is that Home Care workers are allowed to work in multiple environments in a Home Care shift as a part of your regular duties.

In terms of cohorting, what about employees who work in healthcare and also group homes (CBOs)?

Group homes are not covered by this cohorting order. If members have issues related to this – please contact the Member Resource Centre (MRC) so we can follow up.  We have already had some group homes and CBOs ‘deem’ themselves covered by the order and we’ve had to provide clarification to the facility and the Ministry of Health.

Is cohorting being applied to integrated facilities?

Yes. But the specific details on how that happens isn’t exactly clear.  We’ve asked this specifically of the SHA and this was going to be looked at on a case by case basis.  This isn’t entirely reassuring as inevitably, there are ‘one offs’ that create problems with compliance with the cohorting process.  As soon as we have some clarity, we will do our best to share that.

If someone works full-time at one facility and part-time somewhere else, but the employer needs them more at the second site, can the employer ‘choose’ for them to go to the second site?

The short answer is yes.  When setting out your preferences, they will be considered by the employer, but the will ultimately decide where the staffing need is greatest.  The tricky part of your question is how does the employer ensure that you are made ‘whole’ in this instance; they have committed to that in the cohorting principles document.  And that part is still being determined.

As a student preceptoring in one hospital, are we allowed to work in another hospital?

We recommend that you call the Member Resource Centre (MRC) in order for us to get a specific discussion happening on your situation.

I’m concerned about my safety at work, what can I do?

Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) issues need to be understood as independent rights, on top of the collective ones we’re used to (like our collective agreements). You can always ask questions (your right to know). Talk to your Occupational Health Committee (OHC) – if you don’t know who sits on your OHC, contact the Member Resource Centre (MRC). You also have the right to contact an Occupational Health Officer (OHO) at the Ministry of Labour & Workplace Safety. For further OH&S information, visit  https://www.seiuwest.ca/occupational_health_safety.

I’m confused about accessing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and other federal benefits available to those affected by COVID-19 – can you help?

If members who have lost income/work during the COVID-19 pandemic have questions about federal government financial assistance, the following information resources may be helpful.

A good place to start is the External Resources page on our SEIU-West COVID-19 page. 

For a full list of the federal benefits, scroll down to Government of Canada: COVID-19 for the link to the Federal COVID-19 Benefits & Services page. Here you’ll find info (with links) for both individuals and businesses. The information changes weekly, even daily, as the programs are tweaked and new programs are announced. But here’s some highlights of what’s listed for individuals as of April 30:

  • Two COVID-related benefit increases they may be eligible for, and might already have received automatically:
  • Two programs you may have heard about in the news, but that aren’t fully implemented yet:
    • Temporary salary top-up for low-income essential workers: some of our members may be eligible. Details TBA.
    • Canada Emergency Student Benefit: grant to students and new graduates who can’t find work but are not eligible for EI or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Details TBA.
  • The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Members who had to stop work because of COVID-19 may be eligible for up to $2000 every four weeks for up to 16 weeks (so a maximum of $8,000). For example, you may be able to get CERB if, on March 15 or later:
    • you were in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
    • you were taking care of others because they were in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
    • you were taking care of children or other dependents because their care facility was closed due to COVID-19;
    • your EI has run out and you are unable to find work because of COVID-19. It is possible to get both EI and CERB, just not at the same time. The online application form will walk you through the process.
  • There’s a detailed CERB FAQ.
  • It’s recommended to apply for the CERB online, but you can apply by phone (1-833-966-2099). Make sure to have handy:
    • Your SIN
    • Your banking information (including branch/transit number), if you want direct deposit

I’m concerned about the SHA vacation submission deadlines being extended – what is our union’s response?

SEIU-West will not agree to an extended vacation submission deadline beyond what is provided for in the April 22nd memo

What are the rules for the new testing sites in relation to OH&S? Do we have Occupational Health Committees (OHCs) and if so, how do we find out who is on this committee?

New testing sites are being set up and the same rules apply – every work site is required to have an OHC (or an Occupational Health and Safety Representative in sites with 10 or less employees) - as well as a system of reporting accidents, injuries, and near misses. We’ve asked the Employer to send us the list of members who work at these testing sites in order to select OHC members – we have our Top Officers communicating with these members to see who is interested in joining their OHC – if you’re working at a new site and want more information for your OHC, please contact the MRC.

With the SHA rules around cohorting, am I able to continue to work at one facility in the region but keep my private company job?

Yes. Private companies are not covered by the cohorting rules and we’ve learned definitively that neither are group homes.  We continue to question the Ministry of Health about these contradictions.

Am I eligible for the wage top-up for low wage workers? Didn't the government recently expand that program?

It's complicated. Under the original version of the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program (launched in mid-May) you could get an extra $400/week for up to 4 weeks, if all of the following applied to you:

  1. Your wage is less than $24/hour
  2. Your monthly income is less than $2500
  3. You work in a listed "essential care facility". This list included care homes, group homes, and day cares, but not hospitals (except for "integrated hospitals").

The program was changed in mid-June, so that all care-home workers can get the supplement, whatever their wage or income. However, workers in group homes, integrated hospitals, and home care are still subject to the wage and income limits, and hospital workers can't get the benefit at all.  You can find more information here on the Government of Saskatchewan page. 

I’ve been having skin reactions and/or migraines as a result of PPE, what can I do?

Those with PPE reactions should file an incident report with their Occupational Health Committee (OHC) and use the SHA intranet site to log a product issue report. You should also call 1600 where available. For more information, read this SHA document – WCB may also be applicable so if you have any questions, please contact the Member Resource Centre.

What is the PPE directive for transporting patients in an elevator?

If anyone is transporting a patient and within 2 m they would be required to utilize PPE for droplet and contact precautions which would be mask and eye protection (gloves & gown as well).  An N95 is only required for the AGMP’s (Aerosol Generating Medical Procedures) which would not be taking place in an elevator.  If it’s an intubated patient being transferred this should be done with physicians and nurses from ICU and they would all be fitted for an N95.   

Do you have any information about health care worker (HCW) exposure to COVID-19?

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has released this assessment tool for HCWs exposed to COVID-19. Please read and share the following: HCW Exposure Risk Matrix Assessment Tool / Return to Work Algorithm / Return to Work FAQ's / Resource Index

Please consult with your Occupational Health Committee (OHC) if you have further concerns/questions. If you don't know who is on your OHC, contact the Member Resource Centre on our website or by calling 1.888.999.7348 ext. 2298. 

I’m noticing that people in my workplace are not always donning and doffing PPE correctly, what can I do?

Share these visual posters:

Please consult with your Occupational Health Committee (OHC) if you have further concerns/questions. If you don't know who is on your OHC, contact the Member Resource Centre on our website or by calling 1.888.999.7348 ext. 2298. 

I’ve heard the SHA is going to start fit-testing reprocessed N-95s – what does ‘reprocessed’ mean? Are they low on N95 supplies?

We have inquired about this and have been reassured that this is simply a contingency step and there are no plans to actually use the reprocessed masks at this point. For more information on reprocessing, visit this link: PPE Bulletin

We used to dispose masks after being in an isolation room but now I’m told not to – why?

Please read the Continuous Masking Principles and Guidelines and note the changes due to COVID-19.

I’m worried about the warming weather and getting overheated while practicing continuous masking at work. What can I do?

Start by notifying your manager for a resolve. If you do not reach one, contact your Occupational Health Committee (OHC) – if you’re not sure who is on your OHC, contact the Member Resource Centre. We have informed the Employer of this issue and Infection Control Practitioners are aware there may be an increase in inquiries to address temperature issues due to continuous masking. We continue to work on this issue.

Where/when will I be provided with a mask?

Staff who self-identity as working in a clinical care area/facility can be provided with a procedure mask at the start of their shift as part of the daily health care worker screening process. Alternatively, managers, supervisors or another designated point person in the unit/facility will have access to a supply of masks that can be provided when new masks are necessary.

When should I change my mask?

Masks need to be changed when wet, damaged or soiled. Discard when taking scheduled breaks and at the end of the shift.

How can I hydrate safely while wearing a mask?

Efforts should be made to take hydration breaks during regularly scheduled breaks in an effort to conserve PPE use. Masks must be discarded and replaced once removed.

What do I do with my mask after hydrating?

Please consult with your manager but as continuous masking guidelines have shown, masks are to be replaced if soiled or wet (read #3 under guidelines).  

I work in Admin and I see others wearing masks, should I also be wearing one?

All staff should wear a mask where there will be direct or indirect contact with patients/residents/clients (PCR). If you are in a separate area and at least 2m away from PCRs, you may not need to wear one. If you have concerns about this, please raise the issue with your manager. If no resolve is found, contact your Occupational Health Committee.  If you have any questions about this process, contact our Member Resource Centre.

With temperatures rising, what are the guidelines around the use of air conditioning and portable fans within the health care setting?

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has recently released its guidelines/recommendations for the use of air conditioning and fans – you can read those guidelines here. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact the Member Resource Centre (MRC).

I’ve been denied my vacation request, what can I do?

First you need to find out the reason for the denial.  If it’s during the ‘seniority selection’ time, then you should look to see if someone with less seniority in your scheduling group got the time. If that’s the case, then contact your Steward and/or the MRC as this could be a grievance situation.  If it’s denied due to the employer having overly rigid rules regarding ‘numbers allowed off at a time’ then it becomes more complex.  If the employer has put in unreasonable guidelines, we may be able to pursue this issue.  Please call the MRC should this type of situation arise.

I’ve just read the Temporary Wage Supplement has been expanded, am I now eligible?

On July 30, the SK Government announced changes to the Temporary Wage Supplement after weeks of endless pressure from SEIU-West members, other union members and our communities. While access to the Supplement has been expanded to include health care workers who work in integrated health facilities, it still does not include hospital workers or public home care workers. SEIU-West, CUPE and SGEU have launched a petition calling for fairness on a wage subsidy for ALL health care providers – https://skhealthproviders.ca/ . Not only has President Barbara Cape sent a letter to both the Premier and the Prime Minister, our members have been sending letters to the Premier, the Minister of Health, and their MLAs on this issue. It is vital we use our collective voices to shine a light on this unjust situation - we encourage you to call and write your elected officials or email actions@seiuwest.ca for assistance.

Last week, I read that home care workers were now eligible for the temporary wage supplement but when I tried to apply, it didn’t work – what’s the deal?

The Saskatchewan Government included home care workers in their media release when they expanded the temporary wage supplement, however now they are backtracking and saying only private home care workers are eligible. Again, this is completely unfair and demonstrates a total disregard for the entire health care team. We continue to push for the whole health care team to be recognized for their work; we encourage you to call and write your elected officials or email actions@seiuwest.ca for assistance.