The president of the Australian Medical Association, Omar Khorshid, has called for healthcare workers to wear high-grade respirator masks, not just surgical masks, when they are caring for people with COVID-19.
Dr Khorshid said higher-grade masks are recommended for healthcare workers treating patients with cognitive or behavioural issues or workers exposed to “high numbers of suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 patients or residents”, among other workers.
The types of masks he is recommending are P2 or N95 respirator masks, not standard surgical masks.
Dr Khorshid told Sky News it wasn’t simply a public health issue, but an occupational health and safety matter for healthcare workers.
“There is an increasing view that micro-droplets can stay in the air for much longer [than first thought] and can be inhaled in the sides of the masks,” he said.
“The AMA’s view is that for people who are working with people with covid, that they should really have the high level masks that stop the droplets to protect those workers.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt has launched an investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks among healthcare workers across Australia, and will look at masks as part of that investigation.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee’s latest guidelines are under review but state that surgical masks are sufficient protection for healthcare workers in aged care settings.
More than 3,300 healthcare workers have contracted OCVID-19 in Victoria and eight healthcare workers are among clusters traced to Sydney’s Liverpool and Concord Hospitals.
Dr Khorshid said it is “crystal clear” that national guidelines for use of personal protective equipment “have not adequately protected healthcare workers”.
Do you wear fitted masks when caring for residents with COVID-19?