Health workers call for PPE

face mask covid coronavirus ppe
Closeup of young woman doctor with gloves puts on medical mask.

A new survey shows that Australian health care workers are “increasingly alarmed” about exposure to infection – with more than one in seven considering leaving their profession

The national survey of frontline workers in pharmacies, hospitals, aged care homes and medical clinics found that 69% were more concerned about health risks now more than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

It found that 15% had considered leaving their profession due to COVID-19 because of the health risk to themselves or their family, and nine in 10 stated they would not be comfortable working with patients or clients without the correct personal protective equipment.

The findings coincide with a spike in the number of hospital and aged care staff testing positive for COVID-19.

Several pharmacy workers have now returned a positive COVID-19 test to date, including a pharmacy employee at a Pharmacy 4 Less in Western Sydney and a Chemist Warehouse distribution centre worker, both last week.

Other pharmacies have had to be closed for cleaning due to COVID-19 exposure, in Melbourne, Adelaide and Ipswich, since the pandemic began and a western Sydney pharmacy was also closed for cleaning this week after a patient returned a false positive for the novel coronavirus.

Almost all of those surveyed believed face masks were an important safety precaution, with 87% stating that wearing PPE was more important now than prior to the pandemic.

However only around one in five health workers were wearing face masks at all times and only 18% of workplaces had made face masks mandatory at all times.

Essence Communications lead researcher Penny Burke said 90% of those surveyed said they felt safer wearing a mask and there was an almost unanimous expectation that healthcare employers should provide staff with appropriate PPE. 

“I think that is a very understandable and realistic expectation. And given the recent spike in infection rates, it’s more important than ever that our health workers feel confident they can do their job safely, with the best possible protection,” Ms Burke said.

The survey was commissioned by PPE manufacturer Softmed.

Victoria’s Government announced on the weekend that the wearing of masks will be mandatory for most people when leaving their homes from 11.59pm on Wednesday, July 22.

This has prompted a run on masks which has been widely reported in the mainstream media.

According to Pedestrian TV, Victorians bought “at least” 1.5 million of the masks on Sunday alone following the announcement.

And Chemist Warehouse’s Mario Tascone told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell that the discount giant alone sold around 30,000 boxes of 50 masks – 1.5 million at the discounter alone.

Pharmacy Guild Victorian president Anthony Tassone told the AJP that “it is absolutely essential that community pharmacy teams are able to gain access to masks from the national stockpile that are being distributed by PHNs”.

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