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COVID-19 outbreak at Maplehurst: OPSEU/SEFPO praises correctional members

Milton – OPSEU/SEFPO is praising the actions of members it represents at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton for vigorously combatting a COVID outbreak that has hit the institution hard.

“I’m extremely proud of the heroic efforts our correctional members are making to contain the virus,” said union President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. The situation could have been much worse.”

Some 116 inmates and 64 staff have tested positive. As recently as last week, cases were rising by 15 to 30 daily.

“We proposed a number of proactive and protective safeguards to management 11 months ago,” said Ryan Graham, co-chair of the Provincial Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee. “In light of the current outbreak, we’re making further recommendations – and are anxious to work to get them into place as soon as possible.”

“At the ministry level, we continue to provide the employer proactive recommendations, he added. “We’re requesting N95 masks for isolation unit staff and proper PPE training. We’re also struggling with unnecessary PPE reuse. Stocks are rising, and with availability now adequate, the safety of the staff shouldn’t be placed in jeopardy.”

OPSEU/SEFPO Local 234 President Peter Figliola said “We’ve asked that staff work two weeks straight while being housed in the hotel across the street to mitigate the risk of spread into the local community. We’ve requested enhanced cleaning; physical distancing, notably by unlocking just half the inmate population at a time; and fever scanning cameras at entries.”

In addition, the local wants the outdated and hazardous ventilation system repaired. Humidity levels are dangerously low, which promotes COVID transmission by drying out the respiratory system. They also want a safer way to facilitate audio and video courts to enable a safer ability for Inmates to access the justice system.

“Staff should be able to isolate if they’ve tested positive or suspect they’ve contracted the virus and are awaiting test results,” said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, himself a correctional officer. “Fortunately, no one has died. But I strongly encourage staff, management and health authorities to continue working together to better protect everyone at Maplehurst.”

“We call on the government to ensure Maplehurst and all provincial correctional facilities are a top priority in terms of making sure everyone has appropriate and adequate supplies of PPE,” Thomas said. “The health and lives of inmates, staff and the community depend on it.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931; 
OPSEUCommunications@opseu.org