PEI

Personal N95, KN95 masks allowed inside QEH, says Health P.E.I. CEO

Those entering the Queen Elizabeth Hospital will be permitted to continue wearing their personal N95 or KN95 face masks, according to Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Michael Gardam.

'The main point we're trying to make is we want people to wear medical-grade masks'

Some Islanders say QEH staff recently asked them to remove their respirators in exchange for a disposable medical mask provided by the hospital. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Those entering the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown will be permitted to continue wearing their personal N95 or KN95 face masks, according to Health P.E.I. CEO Dr. Michael Gardam. 

Several Islanders have recently raised concerns to CBC News after being told by staff to remove their respirators in exchange for a disposable medical mask provided by the hospital. 

"I think the main point we're trying to make is we want people to wear medical-grade masks," Gardam, who specializes in infectious disease control and prevention, told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin. 

"If it's not one of our masks, we don't necessarily know what it is."

Cloth masks restricted at QEH

Gardam said currently the hospital's policy restricts the use of cloth masks since it is hard to gauge how much protection each one provides.

"What's happened occasionally is people have come in with, like, an N95 respirator or a KN95 respirator, and they've been asked to switch to the medical mask, which gets people upset," he said. 

'Whether you wear a medical grade mask or a another type of appropriate mask, we just don't want you to be wearing the cloth masks,' says Dr. Michael Gardam. 'We have clarified this with our screeners at the front door to allow people to come in with those respirators.' (CBC)

While Gardam called it a "no harm, no foul" situation, he said they have spoken with staff to clarify that those who show up at the QEH with a proper respirator will not be required to swap it. 

"I've dealt with masks all my life. I know exactly what people are wearing on their face, but the people doing the screening at the door may not know that," he said.

Double masking

Gardam said it also came down to source control — covering a person's mouth and nose to help reduce the spread of large respiratory droplets — and that's where the medical mask shines. 

"The medical mask is generally believed to be a better tool for source control than even a respirator," he said. 

"So there is some logic behind what we're doing there, but we've decided we're not going to get into fights with people. If they want to wear their N95 or whatever, we'll just let them."

According to Gardam, while respirators offer more protection against breathing in coronavirus particles, they are not designed to keep those particles from going out, if the wearer has COVID-19.

In addition to that, the respirators can be uncomfortable to wear, which can result in people fiddling with them, making them less effective. 

Similar to emergency department physician Dr. Trevor Jain, Gardam recommends doubling up and wearing two medical masks.

"I personally am a fan of wearing two medical-grade masks one over top of the other. The filtration capacity is very similar to an N95 respirator, and they're much more comfortable to wear," said Gardam. 

"So when I get my booster shot tomorrow, that's what I'll be wearing."

With files from Louise Martin

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