Auckland – New Zealand could be set for a covid -19 infection pandemic within hospitals and rest homes as what happened in Italy unless the government intervenes a pharmaceutical scientist says.
Sir Ray Avery says his concerns have grown following the infection of nursing staff at Waitākere Hospital. The Waitemata District Health Board has launched a review after three nurses contracted covid-19 and another 54 staff members have been stood down temporarily.
Avery says he understands the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and PPE training has been inadequate. Waitākere DHB says it aims to have its own audit completed by next week.
Avery is an expert in the use of PPE and the control of microbiological contamination in hospitals and medical device facilities.
“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,” he says.
“For example, according to Australian New Zealand standard AS/NZS1715 before a user wears a 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 have 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.
“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.
“We need 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 in New Zealand.”
For further information contact Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188