Frontline health PPE under scrutiny
As more hospital and rest home staff are infected during L3, the warnings of pharmaceutical scientist Sir Ray Avery become graver.
His initial concerns over sub-standard PPE equipment and training got louder after the infection of nursing staff at Waitakere Hospital in Auckland, where three nurses contracted Covid-19 and another 54 staff members were temporarily stood down.
Avery claims the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and training has been inadequate, as the Waitakere DHB conducted an audit.
Avery is an expert in the use of PPE and the control of microbiological contamination in hospitals and medical device facilities.
“New Zealand has the second-highest rate on hospital Infections in the developed world and this sets the scene for our hospital systems to be rapidly overwhelmed by Covid -19 infections within the hospital environment,” he warns.
He believes the PPE recommended by the Ministry of Health is woefully inadequate to protect the frontline nursing staff from becoming infected by the patients and the patients from being infected by their caregivers.
“For example, according to Australian New Zealand standard AS/NZS1715 before a user wears an N95 respirator on the job a fit test should be performed to ensure the respirators seal to the wearer’s face in order to provide the expected protection.
“According to the standard-fit, checking should be examined by the wearer every time they put on a mask.
“It is a simple physical test that the nurse can do to check the mask is fitted correctly every time the nurse puts on a new mask.
“My understanding is mask fit check testing training may never have been conducted by any DHB and none of the DHBs has validated standard operating procedures for training staff in the correct use of PPE.
“I understand a number of DHBs have sourced N95 masks from suppliers in China that are not registered with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and given that there has been no validation of their efficacy it may be that they are not fit for purpose.”
Avery says our nation needs to develop national standards for the procurement of the correct quality and efficacy of PPE and implement nationwide PPE staff training programmes.
“These are mandatory requirements if we want to prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed by Covid-19, the influenza virus and the next pandemic to hit our shores.
“We must protect our most valuable healthcare asset and provide them with the correct, validated PPE and proven gowning protocols to prevent the spread of any infectious diseases. We need to invest in our hospital systems and ensure our frontline healthcare workers are protected if we truly want to eliminate Covid -19.”