Health workers voice PPE woes in coronavirus fight

Health workers have told a survey they have limited access to the protective gear they need to safely fight coronavirus, but authorities say it's being distributed.

Health Workers raise concerns about PPE

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians surveyed its members and found 20 per cent of respondents in public hospitals were forced to source their own PPE. Source: AAP

Victoria might need to improve getting protective equipment to health workers, but there are no issues with availability in the state, the premier says.

Daniel Andrews' comments on Monday came in response to ongoing concerns about the availability of proper PPE for health workers.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians surveyed its members and found 20 per cent of respondents in public hospitals were forced to source their own PPE.

"The distribution network is, I think, working well. But no system's perfect. It may need to improve further," the premier said.

"There might also be some communication challenges at that hospital level too, just to make sure that staff have got every sense that whatever they need, they'll get.

"The timely provision of PPE obviously is a different challenge today, with 640 Victorians in hospital, than it was a couple of months ago. But I think we're equal to it."

The RACP's survey also found some respondents either had limited (19 per cent) or no (three per cent) access to surgical masks, while 45 per cent said they had limited or no access to higher-grade N95/P2 masks.

Eleven per cent said they had no access to N95/P2 masks.

About 60 per cent of respondents reported recent workplace training in the use of PPE.

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"At a bare minimum, the (federal) government must start providing transparent updates on the status of the national stockpile," RACP president and respiratory physician Professor John Wilson said in a statement.

"If there is a real shortage, priority must be given to those in higher-risk areas where COVID and suspected-COVID patients are treated."

The survey was conducted from 30 July to 3 August and 677 responses were received.

There are 1,065 active coronavirus cases among Victorian healthcare workers.

Australia's deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, told Nine's Today program he had not heard PPE availability was an issue and health workers could be picking up the virus from instances other than patient contact.

His colleague Dr Michael Kidd said the federal government had already provided 14 million respirator masks to healthcare workers.

The National Medical Stockpile currently has more then 280 million surgical masks and more then 70 million respirator masks, he said.

"We are very concerned about the reports of COVID-19 among colleagues working in healthcare and aged care settings in Victoria," he said on Monday.

"It is imperative people have access to the personal protective equipment they need to do their job safely."

Last week, an Australian College of Nursing survey of 750 nurses found many were feeling frightened and vulnerable.

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists has repeatedly questioned whether hospitals' guidelines go far enough to protect staff, highlighting the importance of "fit-testing" PPE so virus particles cannot penetrate clinicians' safety gear.

Metropolitan Melbourne residents are subject to Stage 4 restrictions and must comply with a curfew between the hours of 8pm and 5am. During the curfew, people in Melbourne can only leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons.

Between 5am and 8pm, people in Melbourne can leave the home for exercise, to shop for necessary goods and services, for work, for health care, or to care for a sick or elderly relative.

All Victorians must wear a face covering when they leave home, no matter where they live.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus


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Published 10 August 2020 at 3:10pm, updated 10 August 2020 at 7:49pm
Source: AAP