WINNIPEG — When the province announced the city would be going into code red restrictions, it meant medical-grade masks for staff in schools, and the PC government provided them.
But when Educational Assistant Lori Morton got PPE for her school – she noticed an odd smell right away, and felt an instant itching sensation.
“By about lunchtime people had started to put their cloth masks underneath their medical masks because their faces were just red and enflamed and rashy,” said Morton.
Morton heard that staff in the childcare sector were also having issues with the supply of masks they received from the province, so she decided to email Bio Nuclear Diagnostics Inc. (BND), the company who makes the masks to learn more.
“They said ‘well we haven’t sold masks to Manitoba for 10 years, and these have a shelf life of five years, so we’re not really sure where you guys got your masks from.’”
In a statement to CTV, a spokesperson for the province of Manitoba said:
“The masks in question were initially purchased in 2009 as part of Manitoba’s response to combat H1N1. These masks were placed in a temperature-controlled storage facility in order to prolong their useful life. These masks were recently reviewed by Infection Prevention and Control as well as Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health. They were deemed acceptable for use and subsequently distributed.”
The Winnipeg School Division and the Seven Oaks School Division told CTV News they were contacted by Education Manitoba over the weekend and told to stop using the masks provided.
In an advisory notice, the president of BND said:
“The recommended shelf life/expiry date of these masks is 3-5 years from the date of manufacture. BND does not recommend using these masks past the shelf life/expiry date.”
NDP Justice Critic, Nahanni Fontaine said the PC government failed Manitobans.
“In the midst of a global pandemic, that would be the first thing you do is check your stockpile to ensure that you’re not handing out things that are actually going to put people at risk, and the government did not do that,” she said.
Fontaine said in addition to schools, the expired masks were given to daycare centres, hospitals, group homes, and correctional facilities.
She’s calling on the province to provide quality masks for the front line workers who need them.
“If (the province) is going to tell us what to wear then they should be able to provide us with quality material,” said Morton.
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