MONTREAL -- Quebec director of public health Horacio Arruda’s order concerning the wearing of respiratory protection equipment, including N95 masks, is being challenged in the Superior Court with health workers wanting it declared invalid.

By limiting the circumstances in which workers can wear the masks, the order endangers the safety of workers by increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19, the workers argue.

Several parties, including the Health Federation of Quebec (FIQ) and the private sector branch of the federation (FIQP) filed the suit this week.

The order in question was made June 8 when Arruda announced that N-95 masks must be reserved for a situation where an IMGA (medical interventions generating aerosols) is performed.

According to the federations, the order limits the use of N95 masks, which lessens respiratory protection measures for nursing staff instead of enhancing them.

It also runs contrary to previous publications and recommendations from the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec, the federations allege.

They raise several arguments to invalidate the order.

First, it is alleged that Arruda, as director of public health, did not have the power to make such an order.

 In addition, it’s argued that the order infringes on the rights of nurses and other health workers who are protected by the Quebec Charter and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by attacking their integrity, their health and their safety, and in turn, that of patients.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have had to fight for access to the protective equipment that health-care professionals need. The virus is still unknown, air transmission is likely and it is therefore essential to apply the principle of optimal precaution, and to protect the personnel, especially in the posibility of a second wave,” said FIQ vice-president Linda Lapointe in a statement.

A quarter of COVID-19 cases in Quebec affect health-care workers, she added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2020.