Statewide audit after fears nurses let down by masks

 

The state's industrial umpire has called for a Queensland-wide audit into whether nurses on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis have adequately fitted masks.

Hospital and health services across the state have been told to audit fit testing of personal protective equipment, such as high-filtration face masks, used by nurses caring for COVID-19 cases, or patients suspected as having the virus, by no later than next Thursday.

The recommendation follows intervention by the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission yesterday in a dispute between Queensland Health and the Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union.

Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union secretary Beth Mohle. Photo: contributed.
Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union secretary Beth Mohle. Photo: contributed.

Where audits have identified deficiencies in fit testing, hospital and health services will be asked to provide an action plan for remedying the situation.

Queensland Health is required to report back to the QIRC on April 27.

QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said the union welcomed the commission's assistance.

"This is a health and safety issue for everyone in the community," Ms Mohle said. "Health and safety cannot be assured unless we have confidence in the proper fit testing of personal protective equipment for nurses and other health workers.

"Currently, there are no guarantees that all health staff working with COVID patients or those suspected of having the virus have been fit tested.

"This is a problem right across our public health system from COVID wards to testing clinics, emergency departments, intensive care units and theatres - nurses must be properly fitted with PPE to be safe and to keep our community safe.

"We have made it clear to Queensland Health that fit testing across the public health system and the supply of appropriate PPE, including masks, must be mandatory."

Under the QIRC recommendation, high priority hospital and health services, including Torres and Cape York, Metro North, Metro South, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Cairns, have been given to April 19 to complete the audit.

All other HHS's must have their audits finished by April 22.

"The QNMU will be following the status of these audits very closely," Ms Mohle said.

Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Dan Peled.
Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Dan Peled.

The union's concerns have been heightened by two recent COVID-19 virus outbreaks linked to the Princess Alexandra Hospital's infectious diseases ward, 5D, which involved three nurses and a doctor.

About 580 Princess Alexandra Hospital workers were forced into 14 days' quarantine as a result of the clusters, which collectively grew to 23 people.

Ward 5D was closed and is yet to reopen.

Ms Mohle said the consequences of health workers not being properly fit tested for PPE were potentially "catastrophic".

Comment was sought from Queensland Health.

Originally published as Frontline fail: Statewide audit after fears nurses let down by masks

 



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