A survey of Queensland public hospital doctors carried out amid the state's latest COVID-19 virus outbreak has found many have not been fit-tested for a high-filtration mask and were yet to receive even one dose of vaccine.

Almost half of the 365 respondents said they regularly treated patients who might be infected with COVID-19.

However, 70 per cent of those who answered the survey said they had not been fit-tested for a P2 or N95 mask used when treating COVID-19 patients.

 

Anaesthetist Dr Hau Tan, the vice-president of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation Queensland. Photo: Supplied.
Anaesthetist Dr Hau Tan, the vice-president of the Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation Queensland. Photo: Supplied.

And 43 per cent had not yet received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

The survey was carried out between March 16-23 by the Australian Medical Association's Queensland branch and the Australian Salaried Medical Officers' Federation Queensland.

Vice-president Hau Tan, an anaesthetist, said fit testing of masks for healthcare workers in public hospitals "really is an issue that ought to be addressed as a priority".

"Doctors have a right to feel safe in the workplace and if they haven't been fit tested for these N95 masks … then they don't have confidence that those masks will give them adequate protection that they're seeking," Dr Tan said.

"There needs to be a significant increase in the amount of fit testing that's occurring for doctors and other healthcare workers.

"I don't think it's logistically from a human resource point of view, very complex."

He said fit testing was important to ensure health workers had "the right one for their face shape".

Dr Tan was commenting just hours after Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young announced four new locally-acquired cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

One of them is a Princess Alexandra Hospital nurse who worked in a COVID-19 ward.

But Dr Young said she would await genomic sequencing results before being able to say whether the nurse had contracted the disease while caring for COVID-19 patients.

 

 

The nurse, who had been in Byron Bay while unknowingly infectious, had not been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, despite working in a COVID-19 ward.

"She'd been on leave," Dr Young said.

Dr Tan said the issue of vaccinating the public hospital workforce was complex, particularly given "a lot of people are unable to work for a day or two after the vaccine" because of side effects.

"That's one of the complexities around this, not just the logistics of trying to prioritise people. It's also the after effects," Dr Tan said.

However, he said the fact that 43 per cent of doctors who responded to the survey had not been vaccinated for COVID-19 was "a cause for concern" and something ASMOFQ would follow up with Queensland Health.

AMAQ president Chris Perry called on Queensland Health to hasten the immunisation of doctors and healthcare workers in hospitals.

"The survey results are a real concern for medical staff and their patients, many of whom move around the health system., between public and private hospitals, and in our community," Professor Perry said.

"At the bare minimum, any healthcare worker treating COVID positive patients must have appropriate, fit-tested personal protective equipment and their COVID vaccination."

 

Originally published as Doctors left exposed as mask fitting, vaccinations lag

 



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