The debate whether to wear an N95 or not should have been over and done with months ago, as compelling evidence emerges that Covid 19 may in fact be transmitted by the aerosol route. I have little faith in the PPE policy and worse is the fact that frontline workers such as myself who are willing to pay for their own advanced PPE to be worn during clinical encounters or high risk situations are not allowed to do so, due to the restrictions imposed by the local health institution one works for. Additionally, the fit check recommended widely does not constitute scientific expert protection as opposed to the fit test , which again is deemed as complex and cumbersome and not implemented widely enough. I don’t understand why certain industry sectors make it mandatory for their workers to have such rigorous testing performed and others such as healthcare, where lives matter just as much do not seem to be implementing this.
It seems we are taking on some small risk (of catching COVID) to preserve the stock of PPE. Whilst a shortage of PPE would be hugely problematic, we should be informed about the risks we are being asked to take, and if we want to take additional precautions, let us! It is our life and our families’ lives that are at stake, after all.
Trying to enforce substandard PPE to avoid causing panic among staff is not a valid reason to stop us protecting ourselves.
As a paramedic I care for potential covid patients in confined, poorly ventilated spaces for prolonged periods of time. We work in an uncontrolled environment with minimal information. I have entered private residences to find an aerosol generating procedure in progress (nebulised salbutamol) and had to quickly retreat to upgrade from surgical to N95 mask.
We are working our butts off and deserve to be provided adequate protection via N95 masks for all potential covid positive patients.
3 nurses on our ward have tested positive to COVID-19, only surgical masks were provided to nurses when caring for the then suspected positive patients.
System failures in PPE have occurred all across Victoria. This is evidenced in 10% of cases being healthcare workers. Rates in the community of SARS-CoV-2 are far lower than 10%.
Healthcare workers are acquiring this infection in their places of employment.
My public hospital does not offer fit testing for respirators, which is mandatory and crucial to ensure safety. My hospital does not ensure that the type of respirator that fits me ( privately fit tested) is always available.
Our group offices are windowless and poorly ventilated.
ED Nurse Queensland
We are provided very cheap level masks that are ill fitting and makes us feel very anxious and stressed to look after patients with respiratory illnesses. We need N95 masks and high quality PPE to work safely.
Our own lives also matter.
It’s a no brainer!!! Even the WHO have accepted that SARS-CoV2 is airborne following the open letter from 240 world wide scientists. All staff should have access to P2/N95 Respirators for ALL work with suspected or proven Covid19 and ALL airborne generating procedures like ENT Surgery in ALL patients.
This is even more important now that extensive presymptomatic and asymptomatic cases have been demonstrated.
All anaesthetists and their nurses should be wearing a P2 mask for all general anaesthetics given in Victoria and New South Wales.
This is the only way to ensure zero anaesthetic health care worker deaths when there is local transmission and asymptomatic patients with Covid-19.
Nurse Western Australia
Working in major Perth hospitals I had to care for suspected covid patients with an ordinary surgical mask. The N95 provides the most protection and they were nowhere to be found. This caused increased anxiety in the workplace, for my own and my colleagues safety. Nurses need the protection to care for patients to the usual high standards, not with unnecessarily increased fear due to the lack of adequate PPE.
I will be reluctant to work in these environments and respiratory/covid wards without better protection.
I am a GP working in Aged care. Because Covid viral aerosolisation leads to high risk of illness/death in healthcare workers, I have been campaigning RACF management since March for all staff to wear masks. It is essential that all healthcare workers are supplied with N95 masks or we will risk the high mortality rate seen overseas.
This must be done NOW.
I’m a trainee doctor and 20 weeks pregnant, working in a busy hospital.
It is essential that best practice PPE is distributed at all times, so that I can protect myself and my unborn baby, whilst still providing care to all my patients.
Doctor Western Australia
I saw a cleaner in our ED wearing an N95 mask to clean the room of a febrile patient I had just assessed and treated, including taking a COVID swab, while using a surgical mask.
I am 29 weeks pregnant and deserve better protection in my workplace.
ED Nurse Victoria
Our current surgical masks don’t fit well, we are having to tape them to our face because we are worried when we are looking after copious amounts of positive patients that we will become sick.
We are all very anxious and worried about getting this virus.
Doctor Western Australia
I was previously involved as a frontline Emergency Physician during the Singapore SARS crisis looking after SARS cases which were transported to a designated SARS hospital in Singapore. I owe my life to the wearing of the 3M Jupiter Hood System with ventilatory filters and waxed gowns/PPE issued by the Hospital Administration at that time.
Prior to this SARS had already claimed the lives of a prominent Cardiothoracic Surgeon and almost killed a dear medical colleague who was an ICU specialist before its lethality was considered.
Surgeon Western Australia
The nurse who fitted me for my N95 had to apply strips of Micropore tape around the mask to achieve an adequate seal. Seriously? Is that the best that we can do for health care worker PPE?
It beggars belief that health care workers are expected to jury-rig N95 masks to achieve a life-protecting air-tight seal.
We are a group of frontline healthcare professionals working in hospitals all around Australia. We have grown frustrated with the lack of consultation around matters relating to our safety at work during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, we decided to do something about it.
This site is dedicated to advocacy for Australian healthcare workers during this pandemic.
It is maintained by practising healthcare professionals for us, by us.
It is here to foster a sense of community so that we are not isolated voices lost in the noise. Share your stories via the open letter or our mailbox. We will use these for advocacy and media campaigns.
Michelle and Ben
Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah MBBS (HONS), FRACP, PhD
Michelle is a physician in general medicine and infectious diseases in Melbourne. She is a clinician-academic with an interest in artificial intelligence and health services research. She is a working mum and does advocacy in her spare time.
Dr Benjamin Veness BAcc MBBS MPH MP
Dr Ben Veness is a psychiatry registrar and former Churchill Fellow. Ben is a past president of the Australian Medical Student Association and enjoys writing on medical and social issues for print media and medical venues.