Doctors and nurses are still waiting to be fit-tested for N95 face masks despite working in high-risk COVID-19 transmission settings, Victoria’s parliament has heard.
Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley said correctly-fitted masks “were crucial” to protect frontline workers and asked why all healthcare workers had not been fit-tested for face coverings.
Health Minister Martin Foley said Victorian guidelines on N95 masks were stricter than national ones and maintained “many hundreds” of frontline healthcare workers had been fit-tested.
“The second wave has disproportionately impacted our healthcare workers and that is why the Victorian government has gone over and above the levels of recommendations for support for PPE guidance,” he told parliament on Thursday.
“(Victoria) is well above the current Australian standards.
“We will continue to work with those representatives (healthcare workers) to make sure all those at risk are protected, their families are protected, their patients are protected and their workforce is protected.”
The Andrews government announced in August a range of measures to curb the spread of the virus in hospitals and aged care facilities, where a fit-testing program would be rolled out among healthcare workers.
But Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill told NCA NewsWire no ambulance workers he had spoken with – as of Thursday – had been fit-tested for face masks.
“One member who transports patients in the private ambulance sector has been in the back of an ambulance with 39 COVID positive patients and she still doesn’t know if the mask she wears fits properly,” he said.
“Our members who have had very close contacts with coronavirus patients can’t be comfortable the mask they’re wearing is protecting them, unless they’re fit-tested.
“I know of 800 so far at the Northern Hospital who have been fit-tested, but out of 150,000 Victorian healthcare workers it’s not that much.”
There are currently 14 healthcare workers who are active COVID-19 cases across the state.