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Somewhere, there is a nurse in there. Private foot care Registered Nurse Mélanie Landry-Massey making an emergency house call in full protective gear. Submitted photo.

COVID-19 pandemic causes challenges and costs for private nurses

There are always costs and regulations associated with owning a business, but Registered Nurses (RN) in private practices are facing extra costs and regulations due to COVID-19.

Mélanie Landry-Massey is an RN from Casselman with nearly 25 years of experience who owns a private foot care business.  She usually goes from home to home providing foot care services for mostly senior citizens or people with physical challenges.  Due to COVID-19-related restrictions, that has not been possible lately.  Landry-Massey has been reduced to making emergency calls only, and when regular house calls can resume, she will have to use a lot of expensive personal protective equipment.

In May, Landry-Massey faced $900 in protective equipment costs.  Increased demand for equipment has caused prices to soar, and equipment for use by private practitioners is in short supply.  By the first week of June, her equipment supplier was waiting for a delayed shipment of 9,000 gowns to arrive.  Landry-Massey said she was able to purchase four gowns from a pharmacist in Embrun so she would have some on hand for emergency calls.

N95 medical masks are in short supply.  Landry-Massey said that the price of them has increased to $126 for 20.  None of the protective equipment can be reused for more than one appointment.

A box of disposable gloves is now selling for $32.  Other required protective equipment includes face shields, wipes, and shoe coverings.

Due to low inventory, suppliers are limiting how much equipment they will sell to private RN’s and similar clients right now.

“I have to pay my bills, buy stuff, and manage everything,” said Landry-Massey.

She has applied for government support to help cover her costs.  The Registered Nurses’ Assocation of Ontario is also lobbying the provincial government to assist private RN’s dealing with financial and operational hardships.

Landry-Massey must decide if a case is an emergency by talking with her patients over the phone.  She said that is a challenge, and that it is also difficult to give foot care advice to patients that way.  Many patients do not have internet access or are not comfortable with communicating by email, either.

Foot care has not been considered an essential business service.  Landry-Massey normally has 100 patients.  She said that due to the schedule of when she normally sees her patients and COVID-19 regulations, she has not been able to see some patients since January.  She has heard of physicians seeing patients with serious foot infections that could result in amputation.

The prolonged prohibition on seeing patients has also led many foot care practitioners to close their businesses, Landry-Massey said.

“It’s been very stressful, to be honest” she said.

When home visits to patients can resume, RN’s like Landry-Massey will have to not only wear all of that expensive, and difficult-to-find protective equipment, but they will also be very restricted in other activities.  She will have to apply protective equipment before entering the home and will not be allowed to use the bathroom while there.  Landry-Massey said that she normally sees 10 patients per day but will end up visiting fewer patients in a day because of the extra time required to be prepared with protective equipment and other sanitization procedures.

But the bottom line is finding a way to help her clients.

“I need to be able to reopen,” Landry-Massey said.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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