Australian Health Workers Voice PPE Woes During COVID-19 Period

August 9, 2020 Updated: August 9, 2020

Many health workers have to source their own personal protective gear and have limited access to the right masks, according to a survey.

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

It also found respondents either had limited (19 percent) or no (three percent) access to surgical masks, while 45 percent said they had limited or no access to higher-grade N95/P2 masks.

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

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

“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 from RACP members.

There are 994 active coronavirus cases among Victorian healthcare workers.

Two weeks ago on Monday, July 27, the state recorded 400 active cases in healthcare workers.

But Australia’s deputy chief medical officer, Nick Coatsworth, said he had not been hearing the same feedback.

“The personal protective equipment is available and it’s where it needs to be at the front line for our healthcare workers,” he told Nine’s Today program.

“To try to reduce this, to suggest that there is insufficient or somehow inadequate PPE is actually misunderstanding the complexity of hospital infection control.

“What we need is excellent data on how healthcare workers acquired their infections – that requires deep investigations.”

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

While the Australian Society of Anaesthetists has voiced the need for P2 or N95 masks and 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.

Kaitlyn Offer in Melbourne