Victoria has a warehouse containing “19 million surgical masks” along with other items of personal protective equipment, Premier Daniel Andrews says, but accessing supplies was “very challenging” due to worldwide demand amid the coronavirus global pandemic.
- Healthcare workers say they are struggling wearing PPE for long hours, with added concerns the equipment is not of a standard that will prevent transmission
- Daniel Andrews says Victoria’s supply of PPE is “adequate” but acknowledged the worldwide demand makes accessing supplies “challenging”
- Nick Coatsworth says frontline workers in Victoria should seek help if their mental health is suffering due to the pandemic
A recent survey conducted by the Australian College of Nursing found nurses were also struggling wearing PPE for long hours, with some suffering bruising from wearing masks.
Within 48 hours, 1,500 responses from nurses reported that having access to appropriate and safe personal protective equipment was one of the main concerns raised, along with the issues of wearing it all day.
They called for more support from management and a safe place to share concerns and unload the mental burden.
They also asked not to be judged if they contract the virus, saying they were at risk like everyone else in the community.
There have been more than 1,500 Victorian healthcare workers infected since the pandemic began.
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Asked at his daily coronavirus briefing about reports of “shortages of PPE”, Mr Andrews was adamant there were “adequate supplies” but acknowledged “everybody in the world is after this at the same time”.
“We have 68 million gloves, 19 million surgical masks, 2 million face shields, we have adequate supplies of PPE,” Mr Andrews said.
He was not pressed on whether the supplies of “surgical masks” provide the suitable level of protection needed against the coronavirus, by providing a more snug fit against the wearer’s face than masks described as being of a surgical model.
The ABC reported on Thursday a Melbourne nurse had requested an N95 respirator mask while caring for COVID-19 patients, but was told it was “unnecessary” and that there “wasn’t the science to back it up”.
She later tested positive to the illness.
The Australian College of Nursing says frontline workers are struggling after wearing PPE for long periods.(AAP: David Mariuz)
In July, Mr Andrews said the State Government would order millions more reusable masks for community distribution and boost local manufacturing capabilities.
Today, he said he could confirm “we approved a whole lot of additional orders”.
“Everybody in the world is after this at the same time. That always makes it very challenging,” he said.
“The team has done a mighty job to have what we need. I can confirm that last night we approved a whole lot of additional orders. All sorts of other masks.
“There are adequate stocks. An enormous amount of work has gone [to procure] that PPE, it’s sitting in the warehouse.”
Experts say gaps between surgical masks and the face allow in air that could potentially infect the wearer.(ABC News)
Australian College of Nursing chief executive Kylie Ward said healthcare workers “can’t access what [PPE] they need when they need”.
She said many nurses were feeling scared and in need of emotional support.
“One of the things I am hearing is the level of guilt because they don’t feel like they are doing enough even though they are the spirit of Australia and doing an incredible job, it’s the burden that we place upon ourselves in a life of choosing to be a nurse and a life of service.”
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Professor Ward said the ACN was in the final stages of compiling a national COVID-19 strategy response to address issues nurses are facing across the healthcare system.
The Victorian Government and the Victorian AMA have been approached for comment.
Get help if you need it, DCMO urges
Later on Saturday, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said he had been in “personal communication with the Victorian Chief Medical Officer [Brett Sutton] in the past weeks and that, amongst other things, has led to a significant change in Victoria’s P2 and N95 masks policy”.
Dr Coatsworth said he understood the stress on healthcare workers in Victoria.
“I know that feeling of not being able to feel refreshed in the morning, I know that feeling of concern, moving to anxiety and something that can be constantly there, and stay there for a long time,” Dr Coatsworth said.
“What I would strongly encourage all Victorians to do, if that is not reason enough to support the stage for restrictions, do everything you possibly can to bring these numbers down, for healthcare workers and residential aged care workers.
“And my colleagues in Victoria, please avail yourself of assistance if you are feeling that way. Whether that is formal assistance, often through your general practitioner, whether it’s going through the Black Dog Institute or talking with colleagues.”
All Victorians are currently required to wear some form of face mask, with a number of exemptions.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)
Under the current restrictions levels in Victoria, the “use of face coverings is mandatory” throughout the state.
Victoria Police have fined almost 200 people in the past 24 hours for breaching the state’s strict lockdown laws.
Sixty-two people have been caught by police for breaking curfew, while 39 people were fined $200 for failing to wear a face covering while out in public.
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