Fort St. John doctors fitted for face masks

Fort St. John doctors and nurses who will be on the front lines treating local patients with the coronavirus disease COVID-19 are being fitted for face masks to ensure they don't contract the virus.

Nurse practitioner Jessalyn Moskalyk is co-ordinating the efforts, and up to 40 doctors and nurses in Fort St. John and Hudson's Hope will be individually fitted with MSA half-mask respirators that are filtered to keep out fluids, odours, and other particulates.

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Moskalyk said the masks are an upgrade from the standard N95 masks supplied to medical staff, and will prevent them from having to share supplies and eliminate cross-contamination. The focus has been to fit all physicians and acute care staff, where exposure will be the highest, she said.

"We all carry our own so they can be sanitized properly and reused between patients," Moskalyk said. "They protect us against the virus."

Brogan Safety is supplying and fitting the masks, and the costs are being covered by Petronas.

Randy Fenton, branch manager for Brogan Safety in Fort St. John, said he was more than happy to use the company's buying power to find whatever supplies it could for the local health care system.

"It's pretty important to the community with what the doctors and nurses are going to have come to light. It's scary," he said. "Our medical system needs it the most."

"If we don't have doctors to work on us we're all in trouble," he said. "It could be you or any of our kids needing help."

Petronas says it made $50,000 donations to both the United Way of Northern BC’s COVID-19 Relief Fund for Northern BC, and to the United Way of Calgary and Area’s Community Response Fund for COVID-19, which will direct funds toward critical community needs.

"The health and safety of people is our top priority," spokesperson Eryn Rizzoli said. "We are also consulting with the local and First Nation communities where we operate to identify how we can help address their most pressing needs."

The threat of COVID-19 has cast an uneasy mood over the health care community, and Moskalyk said community support will be key in helping doctors and nurses endure.

"Last week, it was scary, there was a lot of fear. This week it seems people are pulling together and saying, 'OK, let's do this,'" she said.

"That's going to be the biggest thing for us. That community support helps to get everyone through this."

Dr. Bonnie Henry reported March 26 five recoveries and two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northern Health region.

The total now sits at 11 throughout the region.

 Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at

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