Shock number of masks used for virus patients

 

We've got tens of millions of face masks stockpiled and more on order but infection control rules means they will be quickly depleted as COVID-19 spreads.

And doctors are calling for a rethink on rules about use of personal protective equipment to make sure there is enough to shield frontline medical staff.

Infection control rules require doctors and nurses to dispose of the masks and gowns they use every time they leave the bedside of a COVID-19 patient and to reclad themselves in new gear when they re-enter the room.

President of the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases Professor Josh Davis said people would be surprised to learn that caring for a single hospital patient with COVID-19 could easily use 10 sets of personal protective gear per day.

"Some patients would require a lot more," he said.

Patients made severely ill with the virus can spend weeks in hospital and every week would see one patients deplete the stockpile of 70 gowns.

Doctors are also required to fully clad themselves in the disposable gear when they take a swab from a person who thinks they may have COVID-19 and close to 200,000 tests have now been completed.

 

A nurse takes a sample from a driver at a COVID-19 drive-through testing facility at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide. Picture: AAP
A nurse takes a sample from a driver at a COVID-19 drive-through testing facility at Hampstead Rehabilitation Centre in Adelaide. Picture: AAP

Australian Medical Association president Dr Kean-Seng Lim said there was a lot of anxiety among medical staff about supply of protective gear and they feared getting infected with COVID-19.

"We do know it is happening overseas," he said.

Close to 1700 health workers in Italy and around 3000 in China have been infected with the virus. The Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, 34, who blew the whistle on the initial outbreak of the disease in China died from the virus.

 

 

In some countries in Europe a shortage of protective gear has seen doctors ordered to treat multiple patients using the same set of gear.

Dr Lim said with protective gear in short supply there should be a reassessment of rules to make sure none of it was being wasted on low risk activities where cloth gowns that could be washed might be more appropriate.

The government has asked a face mask firm in Shepparton to ramp up production to help supply more face masks.

Originally published as Shock number of masks used for virus patients