“We have no reason to believe that harmful exposures have occurred or that any staff member has experienced adverse health effects from exposure to cytotoxic medications. Although no employees reported any illness or health effects, Workplace Health and Safety occupational health nurses reached out to affected staff to hear their concerns and answer any questions.” But Hansen said that there was a “lack of awareness” about the side effects of cytotoxic medications in the industry. “Nursing staff, they hear the words ‘cytotoxic medication’, they link it back to how it affects patients,” said Hansen. “We’re finding the culture in healthcare, it’s very patient-focused as to how it affects patients and clients. A lot of nursing staff don’t actually take the effects as to how it’s going to affect them as a worker.” In addition, workers in facility maintenance and food services often know nothing about cytotoxic medications or the risks of exposure. “We’re finding the employers that have practices in place sporadically throughout the province. It’s not consistent.” AUPE recommends that healthcare workers wear special chemotherapy gloves and non-impermeable gowns, as well as respirators and eye protection, to prevent exposure. “That would extend into both our auxiliary nursing group, who are the nurses that would be preparing and administering the drugs,” said Hansen about the union’s recommendations. “We’re advising our general support staff to take similar precautions.” Gilchrist said that AHS has safety policies, procedures, education and training to deal with the hazards of exposure to cytotoxic medications. “We will continue to work with staff and unions to ensure the continued health, safety and wellness of all AHS employees,” he said.

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