By Sir Ray Avery
Auckland – Hundreds of frontline medical staff around the world have died of Covid-19 infection and the need for appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is irrefutable.
PPE clothing should do three things: Protect the caregiver from infection by the patient and the ambient environment; protect the patient from infection caused by the caregiver; and prevent patient to patient infection.
Selecting the correct PPE and training front line staff in gowning procedures is essential to saving the lives of caregivers and patients.
Sadly, none of the lessons learnt from frontline medical staff throughout the world have been adopted by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and local district health boards.
There is in fact a massive civil war in our DHBs between front line medical staff and the DHB senior administrators.
Middlemore Hospital threatened to stand down a clinician for wearing appropriate PPE because it is frightening other workers and the union representing nurses claims Waikato Hospital nurses who caught COVID-19 were told to remove PPE.
In a more recent case, a nurse was infected by a patient despite wearing the DHB recommended PPE which illustrates the importance of wearing the correct PPE.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield has washed his hands of any responsibility saying that the PPE issue is a matter for the individual DHB’s to work out with their medical staff.
He has also repeatedly stated that there is no shortage of PPE for frontline medical staff. This is not true.
As former chair of the New Zealand Health Innovation Hub which represented all the major DHBs in the country, I am in constant contact with both hospital staff and aged care frontline workers.
The feedback from the frontline staff is they either have no PPE or they are being asked not to use it pending a possible Covid -19 outbreak.
It is significant that 30 percent of all recent covid-19 infections in New Zealand were in frontline medical staff and that the majority of deaths attributed to covid -19 infections were associated with contact with front line medial staff.
It is arguably true that if the frontline medical staff were wearing the correct PPE then many of these deaths may have been preventable. There is no social distancing in primary healthcare.
We are sending our frontline medical staff into battle without the proper PPE which can not only save their lives but the lives of their patients.
It is not only vitally important that front line medical staff wear PPE but also that the PPE is fit for purpose.
The current Ministry of Health guidelines for PPE do not mirror the lessons learnt in other countries and are woefully inadequate with respect to protecting our frontline staff.
Right now New Zealand has the second highest rate of hospital acquired Infections in the developed world so let’s all work together to see if we can turn these figures around and make sure our frontline health workers can remain safe and well and do what they do best under very challenging circumstances; save lives.
Support the campaign to save the lives of our frontline medical staff by signing this petition.
For further information contact Sir Ray Avery on 0274760591 of Make Lemonade NZ editor in chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188
Note: Former New Zealanader of hte year Sir Ray Avery is a pharmaceutical scientist and an expert in PPE and the control of microbiological contamination in closed environments such as hospitals and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing facilities.