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From pay gap to ill-fitting PPE, female workers highlight challenges in U.K. health care – CBC.ca

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When Dr. Amun Sandhu moved to the United Kingdom a decade ago to study medicine, her superiors predicted her career advancement would be limited.

“You don’t tend to see very many female surgeons,” she said she was told. “You’ll end up being a GP, anyway.”

While Sandhu is now a doctor of acute medicine in East London, the Vancouver native still feels a gender bias. 

She recounted times when she has approached patients’ bedsides, flanked by a male nurse or junior colleague, and the patient will speak over her entirely, assuming the man is the doctor.

“You feel like you’ve done all the hard work and earned this, and you’re still being referred to as either a nurse or not even being referred to at all,” Sandhu said.

Lorraine Sunduza, a chief nurse in East London, said women are often charged with representing their gender when working in a sphere dominated by men. (Submitted by NHS East London Trust)

Lorraine Sunduza, the chief nurse for the East London Trust, has had similar experiences. Originally from Zimbabwe, Zunduza said there have been times when she has assigned tasks to her staff, only to have them question her authority. 

She said these “subtle” yet frequent occurrences have left her wondering, “If I was a man, would they do that? And if I was white, would they do that?”

Of the people who work for the National Health Service in Britain, 77 per cent are women. But while they make up more than three-quarters of the NHS workforce, women account for less than half of its most senior members, on average, according to a study published last month by the University of Exeter.

This lack of representation makes things more difficult for female health-care workers, said Sandhu — from commanding the respect they deserve to earning reasonable pay to being given the proper equipment to do their jobs.

Medical careers based on ’20th-century model’

The Exeter study, led by professor Ruth Sealy of the university’s business school, included an analysis of more than 3,000 directors across the NHS in England, as well as more than 70 in-depth interviews with board chairs, directors and aspiring executives.

The senior female NHS employees Sealy interviewed reported having overcome workplace inequality and domestic pressures to secure a leadership role. “Women who get to senior positions in leadership have been clinging on with their nails,” she said.

Ruth Sealy, a professor at the University of Exeter’s business school, said there are still some hospital alliance boards in the U.K.’s National Health Service that have little to no female representation. (Submitted by Ruth Sealy)

A major factor in determining whether someone in health care can advance to the next rung of the ladder is their ability to get experience in several different areas of medicine, says Sealy.

However, a lack of flexibility from senior decision-makers or an alliance board makes it difficult for women to advance, she adds.

“Medical careers are still based on a … 20th-century model,” said Sealy.

Sandhu said that in her experience, female consultants tend to be more aware of the work-life balance many women in health still navigate today.

When asked to comment on the support available for female staff, a spokesperson for the NHS provided the CBC with an email response, saying the NHS is “offering greater options for flexible working, modern and inclusive recruitment practices and a continued focus on staff health and well-being as set out in the NHS People Plan.”

Poorly equipped

A gender bias can also be seen in pay. According to a review by the U.K. government this year, the overall NHS gender pay gap is 23 per cent.

Similar numbers can be seen in Canada. In Ontario and British Columbia, female doctors earn 30 per cent and 36 per cent less, respectively, than their male counterparts, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in August.

The gap is slightly smaller in the United States, according to a 2019 report published by medical news site Medscape. The average U.S. male doctor earns 25 per cent more than his female equivalent.

Sandhu, centre, poses with female colleagues in their oversized personal protective equipment earlier this year. (Submitted by Amun Sandhu)

Another way the lack of female leadership affects women in the NHS is that they aren’t always provided appropriate equipment.

In the early stages of the pandemic, Sandhu and fellow health-care workers were “fit-tested” to ensure their personal protective equipment (PPE) was sufficient. The test involved having a fine spray, meant to mimic the virus, misted over their masked faces. 

If the PPE was reliable, the wearer wouldn’t be able to smell or taste the spray. But Sandhu and many other female colleagues reported an orange smell and a bitter taste in the back of their throats. In other words, the mask didn’t fit properly.

Sandhu said this demonstrates that female health-care workers weren’t “taken into consideration” with regards to proper PPE, including masks, scrubs and gowns.

Most PPE is based on the sizes and characteristics of male populations from certain countries in Europe and the United States, according to a 2017 report from the U.K.’s Trades Union Congress. That means only three in 10 women in the U.K. have PPE that’s designed for their bodies, the report states.

Sandhu said many of her female colleagues had to use tape to adjust their XXL scrubs, and when surgical caps were in short supply, they re-purposed excess gown material for handkerchiefs to tie around their heads.

“We were told, basically, ‘This is what we have, this is what you’ll need to use,'” said Sandhu.

The quality of supplies has improved greatly since the number of coronavirus cases dropped, Sandhu said, but earlier in the pandemic, the lack of proper PPE left her feeling unprotected.

Sealy said that “when you are in less than a powerful position, it’s much harder to question the way that things are being done, and to question why you don’t have the PPE … and to push when you don’t get what you should be given.”

Women the ‘shock absorbers’ of society

Dr. Roopa Dhatt, a doctor of internal medicine in Washington, D.C., who also serves as the executive director of Women in Global Health, said “there are superhuman expectations on women.”

Dr. Roopa Dhatt is the executive director of Women in Global Health, an organization working towards gender equality in global health leadership. (Peter Braverman)

She calls women the “shock absorbers” of society, saying they continue to work long hours for less pay than men in order to keep their communities moving forward.

Women in Global Health collaborated with the World Health Organization on a 2019 report on female leadership in health, which found that women make up more than 70 per cent of the global health workforce, but only hold one in four leadership positions. 

“If we want to really actually make headway in creating not only stronger, more resilient health systems … women need to be in leadership roles. They’ve demonstrated it. They have the expertise. They have the power,” said Dhatt.

But those who have power also know they can be subject to abuse. 

British Columbia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Bonnie Henry, spoke recently about the importance of addressing gender bias in order to ensure better treatment for the next generation of leaders.

In a panel presentation at the Union of B.C. Municipalities last week, Henry opened up about death threats and other negative comments she has received since the start of the pandemic. 

“I sense that people find that [kind of abuse is] OK for a woman who is up-front, more so than some of our male leaders,” Henry said.

WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about receiving abuse:

B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer talks about concerns over her safety as she handles the COVID-19 pandemic. 1:31

Despite the challenges for women in health care, Sandhu said she takes inspiration from female medical leaders like Henry and Canada’s chief medical officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.

“The way that they’re conveying their messages is beneficial to female physicians and nurses and women in health care in general,” Sandhu said.

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Kamloops clinic hosts flu vaccination drive-thru | Kamloops News | iNFOnews – iNFOnews

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The Orchards Walk Medical Clinic, run by STEPS, has opened a drive-thru flu shot clinic.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / RIH Foundation

October 29, 2020 – 2:18 PM

A Kamloops clinic is offering drive-thru flu vaccinations so that patients can stay in their cars, and stay safe.

The drive-thru is hosted at Orchards Walk Medical Clinic, run by the Supporting Team Excellence with Patients Society, according to a release.

In addition to the permanent team at the clinic, nursing students from Thompson Rivers University are also helping out with vaccinations for the 8,000 plus patients at the clinic.  

“We had read about the success of drive-thru vaccination clinics in Australia and decided to try it out here in Kamloops,” society spokesperson Christine Matuschewski said in a release.

“Although the weather has been unseasonably cold, we were still able to process a significant number of patients over the multiple flu shot clinics we are running.”

The lessons learned from this drive-thru clinic will be shared with other organizations looking to do flu shot clinics, and applied in the future once a COVID-19 vaccine is available.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brie Welton or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won’t censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2020

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Another record-breaking day for COVID-19 in Manitoba with 193 new cases, 97 hospitalizations – CBC.ca

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The COVID-19 pandemic in Manitoba continued its upward climb with another record-breaking day on Thursday. The province set new records for the number of new cases and people in hospital with the virus, with 193 new cases and 97 hospitalizations announced Thursday.

This is the second time in three days the province has set a new record for the most cases in a single day.

The province also announced another death, a man in his 80s from the Southern Health region. This brings the total number of deaths to due to COVID-19 to 62.

The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 in intensive care dropped slightly to 17, down from the record high of 19 set on Wednesday.

Manitoba also broke a new record for its five-day test-positivity rate — a rolling average of the number of COVID-19 tests that come back positive — which climbed to 7.8 per cent, up from the previous high of 7.5 per cent set just two days ago.

Manitoba’s five-day test positivity rate set a new record on Oct. 29, 2020 at 7.8 per cent. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Restrictions having little effect

These new records continue the upward trajectory of the pandemic in Manitoba, one day after Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin acknowledged that health orders meant to curve the growth of new cases, particularly in Winnipeg, haven’t had the desired effect, one month after the city moved to the restricted orange level on the province’s pandemic response system.

New restrictions were imposed on Oct. 19 in the Winnipeg metropolitan region, with gathering limits further reduced from 10 to five people and stand-alone bars and nightclubs ordered to close, to little noticeable effect.

“We’re not seeing the the results that we expected with the restrictions,” Roussin said at a news conference Wednesday.

He noted that public health officials continue to see too many cases with large numbers of contacts and people going out while feeling ill. Many recent cases have been linked to Thanksgiving gatherings, Roussin said.

Although he did not announce any new health orders, Roussin has said he may have to if the health care system continues to come under strain and if numbers continue their rapid rise.

In recent days, Roussin has begun urging Manitobans not to socialize with people outside their households. 

On Wednesday, Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa said that if hospitals in Winnipeg reached capacity patients will be moved between wards and hospitals — and could even be moved to Brandon, Man., as needed.

The number of people with COVID-19 in hospital reached new heights on Oct. 29, 2020 with 97 hospitalizations. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Hospitals have begun cancelling surgeries due to staff shortages, some of whom are self-isolating because of exposure to the virus, as well as changes to the rule around use of personal protective equipment. 

In one instance, an entire surgical team was forced to isolate because a patient, who later tested positive, did not disclose that they were a close contact of a known case.

There are currently 37 active cases of COVID-19 among health-care workers in Manitoba, with 32 in Winnipeg.

Outbreaks in school, health centre, seniors centre

An outbreak has also been declared at Collège Louis Riel, where students have been sent home Wednesday after four new cases were confirmed at the school.

The number of confirmed cases at the school has now risen to seven and 10 cohorts are self-isolating, as well as other staff and students, the provincal government said in a news release.

All students have switched to remote learning and the school has moved to the restricted orange level on the province’s pandemic response system, while health officials are investigating the sources of infection.

Manitoba reported 193 new COVID-19 cases on Oct. 29, setting a new record for the most new cases announced in a single day. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

An outbreak at St. Boniface Hospital has grown to 36 people, three more than on Wednesday, with 25 patients and 11 staff members infected. The outbreak has been linked to three deaths.

Meanwhile, an outbreak at Victoria General Hospital has increased by nine cases, with 28 patients and 21 staff members infected. One person linked to that outbreak died after being transferred to St. Boniface Hospital.

Health officials also declared outbreaks at the Bethesda Regional Health Centre in Steinbach and the the KeKiNan Centre Inc. assisted living facility in Winnipeg. 

A total of 16 personal care homes in Manitoba have active COVID-19 outbreaks, with 247 cases and 27 deaths.

Parkview Place in Winnipeg, site of the deadliest outbreak in a Manitoba care home, had 126 cases among staff and residents, with 19 deaths, as of Tuesday, according to provincial data.

At the Maples Personal Care Home in Winnipeg, the second-largest care home outbreak in the province, 76 residents and staff have tested positive, although none have died as of Thursday afternoon.

The bulk of the new cases are in the Winnipeg Health region at 139. The Interlake-Eastern Health region has 21 new cases, 19 in the Southern Health region, 10 in the Northern Health region, and four in Prairie Mountain Health region.

The province plans to open a new drive-thru testing site near CF Polo Park at Manitoba Public Insurance building at 125 King Edward St. on Oct. 31. It will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

On Wednesday, labs completed a total of 3,375 COVID-19 tests. 

More possible exposures

Manitoba health officials warned of more possible COVID-19 exposures on Thursday:

Winnipeg

  • Oct. 12 to 16, 19 and 20: Kidz Korner Infant Childcare Inc. (3708 Roblin Blvd.).
  • Oct. 13: Busy Bee Day Care Centre Inc. (646 – 648 McGee St.). This possible exposure was previously announced, now a case has been confirmed.
  • Oct. 14 and 15: Linwood School.
  • Oct. 16: Elmwood High School.
  • Oct. 18: Marks Work Warehouse (1580 Regent Ave W).
  • Oct. 19 and 20: Miles Macdonell Collegiate.
  • Oct. 20 and 21:
    • École Garden Grove.
    • General Wolfe School (661 Banning St.).
    • Winnipeg Transit Route #15, from Kennedy Street to Sargent Avenue, 8:25 a.m. to 8:40 a.m., and from Sargent Avenut to Kennedy Street, 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
  • Oct. 28: Collége Louis-Riel.

The Pas

  • Oct. 16 and 20: Margaret Barbour Collegiate 
  • Oct. 20: New Avenue Hotel Bar (404 Fischer Ave.)
  • Oct. 19 and 20: Opasquia Elementary School

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Disease experts raising alarm about Manitoba’s growing COVID-19 crisis – Global News

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As Manitoba’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise — including another record-setting day Thursday — infectious disease experts are raising alarm bells over the province’s growing coronavirus threat.

Dr. Jason Kindrachuk of the University of Manitoba’s department of medical microbiology said the situation is dire.

“I don’t think there’s any way that we can sugarcoat it or walk around those terms,” he said.

“The overall positivity rate in Manitoba is on par with what they’re seeing nationally in the U.S., and in the past, we’ve looked at the U.S. as being kind of an out-of-control situation.

“This situation is not just going to take care of itself.”

Kindrachuk said Manitoba has moved past the point of personal responsibility, as the virus is starting to have a big impact on health-care centres — as well as health-care workers — across the province, but especially in Winnipeg.

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“I think there need to be some tougher restrictions,” he said.

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“We need help and we need it quick.”

Read more:
COVID-19 pandemic means bleak times for Manitoba restaurants, according to new survey

Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr had similar thoughts Wednesday.

Carr said she’s not encouraged that the province is starting to round the corner on the disease.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing significant community-based spread still. I’m still looking at the seven-day averages of new cases going up all across Manitoba — we’ve had 2,200 new cases just since Thanksgiving weekend.

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“We’re still in a challenging situation, but we can turn this around.”

Carr said she hopes, for the sake of the province’s economic and social well-being, that we’re not headed toward another shutdown, but “nothing is off the table.”

“When you take that party to your home, just because the bar or restaurant is closed, you’re sabotaging you, your friends, your family, and those businesses that are following the rules and staying closed.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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