There are a wide variety of cytotoxic medications, which are also known as antineoplastic agents. They�re primarily used in chemotherapy, but they�re also being used to treat a growing number of illnesses like rheumatoid and juvenile arthritis. However, they also can cause side effects ranging from skin and eye irritations to vital organ damage to pregnancy-related health issues, such as birth defects. They�re also known to cause some forms of cancer, ironically. Rusznak said health care staff providing day-to-day or hourly care to patients are potentially exposed to these medications, but many of these workers at least have access to a client chart and would know if a patient is on a cytotoxic medication. �But we have a number of workers that aren�t necessarily privy to a client�s file or a client�s chart,� she said. These include housekeeping and food services staff, who could potentially be exposed to cytotoxic medications through the bodily fluids � blood, urine and so forth � of patients using them, she said. Rusznak said they also have heard that in some locations, nursing staff aren�t informed what plan or policies a facility has in place for dealing with a patient who is being treated with cytotoxins. When asked further about the Westlock Healthcare Centre�s issues, Rusznak said that to her expectation, there is not a plan in place to directly education the staff on what the concerns are around cytotoxins. Following the filing of AUPE�s complaints, Alberta Health Services (AHS) issued a statement saying the health and safety of staff is their top priority and they continue to ensure �their ongoing health, safety and wellness.� The statement alludes to the fact that AUPE previously raised this issue in regards to other facilities back in April and June. AHS Workplace and Safety conducted an investigation to determine the level of exposure and potential risk, but determined there was no exposure that could cause harm.
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