Health workers voice PPE woes during COVID

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants more masks for health workers.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians wants more masks for health workers.

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.

"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 July 30 to August 3 and 677 responses were received.

There are 1065 active coronavirus cases among Victorian healthcare workers.

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

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.

Australian Associated Press