Health service backflips on order to reuse masks
A PRIVATE hospital chain ordered doctors and nurses to reuse disposable masks and store them in paper bags each night, due to COVID-19 shortages.
Mater Health - which operates eight hospitals in Queensland - told staff to write their names on personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to be used only once.
Medical staff in the chemotherapy ward were told to ditch respiratory masks - which provide the highest protection - and replace them with surgical masks and reusable goggles.
In a COVID-19 safety alert last week, Mater Health told staff that "reuse of all P2/N95 (respiratory) masks now applies".
"It is expected that all staff will reuse PPE where safe and practical to do so in line with these recommendations," it said.
Mater Health backed down on Wednesday and said it had revised the document, after The Courier-Mail sent a copy of the safety alert, dated 25 March 2020, for verification.
"We recognise that this PPE advice caused some confusion and as a result the advice was revised on Thursday 26 March and Mater staff were provided with clinical guidelines and resources to guide staff in the effective use of PPE,'' a spokeswoman said.
"Mater is not currently asking staff to reuse masks.''
The spokeswoman refused to outline the new guidelines to The Courier-Mail but said they were "in line with current World Health Organisation standards and best practice''.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD
The withdrawn March 25 document states that single use or reusable goggles and face masks "are NOT to be discarded''.
"Reuse conditions now apply,'' it says.
"Label face shield or goggles with permanent marker.
"Clean and disinfect using a disinfectant wipe after removal (then) store in a designated, paper bag labelled with the person's name.''
The directive says staff should "not compromise your own safety'' and should discard masks, gloves and gowns that are "visibly soiled, contaminated with blood or body fluids or damaged/faulty''.
It says staff must not bring their own protection gear, including "fabric masks''.
"Well people will not benefit from wearing a surgical mask,'' it states.
"Masks are of benefit to people who are sick so they don't cough on others, and health care workers who have frequent, close contact with sick people.
"Routine patient care does not require the use of PPE unless stipulated otherwise via transmission based precautions or performing a procedure, or anticipated contact with blood or body fluids.''
Nurses Professional Association of Queensland president Phill Tsingos blasted Mater Health for "playing with nurses' lives''.
"They are putting nurses' lives at risk on the front line,'' he said.
"Making nurses put those masks in a paper bag and reuse them is like reusing toilet paper.
"The masks are single use only - nurses putting this contaminated mask back on will inhale concentrated amounts of the virus that will cycle through every breath the nurse takes in the mask.''
Originally published as Health service backflips on order to reuse masks