HALIFAX -- Healthcare workers around the Maritimes are concerned about a dwindling supply of equipment meant to protect them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An employee at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, who did not want to be identified by CTV, says staff are preparing for a new policy in which healthcare workers would be encouraged to wear one mask per shift.

The IWK confirms the potential change in an e-mailed statement to CTV.

“We are currently working with our teams to develop the required processes to allow us to move in this direction,” says Nick Cox, Senior Advisor of Government Relations & Issues Management at the IWK Health Centre.

The IWK says more details will be made available next week.

Healthcare unions in Nova Scotia say too many frontline workers are being left without the proper protective equipment.

“For instance, in the COVID assessment units, certain people are allowed to use them,” says Jason MacLean, President of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. “As it stands right now, admin professionals aren’t allowed to use them, and they’re not given the proper gear as well.”

MacLean says hospital cleaners have been approached by their managers and told to remove face masks “because they don’t want them to scare patients.”

While medical staff struggle to get a firm grip on how much equipment is available, the general public is receiving mixed messages on whether or not they should be wearing a mask themselves.

In Canada, the official recommendation is for masks to be worn only be medical professionals or people who are ill.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Health and Wellness says the recommendation on masks is being reviewed by Canada’s Public Health Agency. The World Health Organization is also taking another look at who should be wearing a mask. 

On Friday, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control recommended people wear a cloth face covering in public, especially in areas where there’s been significant community-based transmission of COVID-19.

“I think it’s changing, and I think we’ll continue to hear a lot of discussion about masks in the next little while,” said Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island’s Chief Public Health Officer. “I also think it’s different if there’s a lot of evidence of community transmission, versus a place like P.E.I. that doesn’t have that kind of evidence right now versus somewhere else. So what I’m saying today may be different as our epidemiology changes. 

According to the recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), you should wear a mask if you're front-line medical staff or showing symptoms of COVID-19.

However, the WHO confirms a panel with the organization is taking a look to see if that recommendation should change.