Aussie States Could Repeat Vic Health ‘Failures’

By AAP
August 6, 2020 Updated: August 6, 2020

The nation’s peak workplace health and safety body has called for immediate action to address the rampant spread of coronavirus among healthcare staff.

Other states could repeat Victoria’s hospital and aged care COVID-19 outbreaks if personal protective equipment and other protocols aren’t overhauled urgently, a peak body says.

The Australian Institute of Health and Safety is calling for immediate government intervention to address the rampant spread of coronavirus in healthcare settings.

It comes as Thursday’s figures confirm 1388 healthcare workers in Victoria have contracted the virus, with 810 cases still active.

The latest breakdown of active cases shows 48 doctors, 346 nurses and 416 other healthcare workers are battling the virus.

Two-thirds of those infected fall between the ages of 20 to 39.

“The current infection rate is unacceptable,” AIHS chairwoman Naomi Kemp said in a statement on Thursday.

“But more tragically, it is preventable.”

Another 1435 of Victoria’s 7449 total active cases are linked to aged care.

The “failure” to instil adequate health and safety standards contributed to the state’s second wave infiltrating hospitals and aged care centres, Kemp said.

The national safety body claims many building site workers have better personal protective equipment to combat the virus than doctors and nurses.

National PPE guidance for use in hospitals does not require staff to wear P2 or N95 masks while treating confirmed or potential COVID-19 patients.

Surgical masks, more commonly used in hospitals, do not offer the same level of protection against the airborne virus.

The AIHS wants federal and state governments to step in and mandate the use of P2 and N95 respirators in these circumstances among a bevy of best-practice virus upgrades.

“The Victorian experience will simply be repeated in other states unless we act urgently to introduce better protocols across Australia,” Kemp said. 

“We’re not saying that individual hospitals and aged care centres aren’t trying.

“But many are only implementing the minimum health and safety standards, and those requirements are dangerously inadequate for frontline workers.”

The AIHS echoed calls from Victorian anaesthetists last week to provide staff-wide PPE ‘fit testing.’

Fit testing involves checking whether airborne particles can penetrate an N95 mask and other safety gear.

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists said it had made “numerous approaches” to federal and state health authorities to request mandatory fit testing in all hospitals.

By Callum Godde in Melbourne