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Why properly fitted PPE is crucial for our health workers

Since the onset of SARS-CoV-2, Australia has recorded 27,602 cases of the virus, with 907 total deaths. 

While the latest data has shown a significant drop in overall case numbers across the country, there is one question that has remained constant: why have so many healthcare workers across the world contracted COVID-19?

In Victoria alone, there have been a total of 20,345 cases and 819 deaths, with health workers representing 17.57% of the state’s cases.

Victoria’s plan of action

The Victorian government committed to providing additional protection to public healthcare workers after a report released in August this year revealed that 69% of Victorian healthcare workers infected with COVID-19 had likely acquired the infection at work, compared to 22% in the first wave. This startling figure equates to more than 1,600 people infected in the workplace.   

The report found that the leading causes of workplace infections were close physical contact between health workers, movement between staff facilities, ventilation systems that provided weak airflow, and crucially, improper fitting of PPE.

Since the release of that report, there have been numerous calls from public health groups for improvements to PPE requirements – including the implementation of ‘fit-testing’ across Australia.

The Victorian health sector has since updated its WorkSafe COVID-19 risk guidelines to say that fit-testing “is an important part of a respiratory protection program per AS/NZS 1715:2009, and should be conducted so far as reasonably practicable.”

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has also pushed for the revision of guidelines around PPE requirements to include mask-fitting.

 

Improper use of PPE

Although the overall rate of healthcare worker infection in Victoria has dropped, it remains crucial that healthcare providers across all states adhere to the appropriate practices for wearing PPE. This will mitigate the risk of another wave among both healthcare workers and the general public.

One point that has remained clear throughout the duration of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is that PPE, including respiratory protection, cannot effectively protect the wearer unless it is fitted and worn properly and consistently. This will be an important lesson for future health crises.

For example, surgical masks were primarily designed for a surgical setting and are less effective at providing complete protection against the flu and viruses. They are intended to prevent droplets from the surgeon’s mouth or nose entering a patient’s wound and causing sepsis.

Unfortunately, it is commonly reported that PPE is worn incorrectly and inconsistently among healthcare workers. Studies have shown that a large percentage of healthcare workers fail to wear, put on, and remove respirators and PPE correctly – increasing the risk of transmission significantly.

Nurses and medical staff in healthcare environments have also reported numerous concerns about the protectiveness and availability of PPE.

 

What can be done? 

Respiratory protection requires three main things to be effective. It must…

  1. Be put on correctly and worn during exposure
  2. Be able to capture at least 95% of particles that pass through the filter
  3. Fit and seal to the user’s face

If any of these requirements are not met, the individual wearing the respiratory mask is at considerable risk of breathing in viral particles. 

Here at BMedical, we understand that it’s not just the technical capacity to protect the wearer from infection that’s important – fit and comfort are also paramount. That’s why we have partnered with HygiMed to provide healthcare workers with the best in PPE.

Nimbus N95 Respirator Mask 

with 360° soft silicon seal for improved protection and superior comfort

The N95 Nimbus mask is the flagship face mask by HygiMed, which outperforms the 3M N95 disposable mask both in filtration and leakage tests. 

The N95 Nimbus Mask has been specifically designed with a CPAP-style silicone cushion – offering ultimate protection through a completely secure fit, while also providing added comfort for long shifts. 

As you breathe, the silicon seal moulds to your face to ensure a tight seal. The internal structure is designed to prevent the mask from collapsing while you breathe, improving its durability.

An Australian patented innovation endorsed by several prominent surgeons throughout Australia, the Nimbus N95 allows healthcare professionals to wear one mask for up to 8 hours. 

Unlike surgical masks, which require frequent replacement, touching and adjustment, the Nimbus N95 is a long-lasting, effective alternative – which can help save lives.

LEARN MORE

November 19, 2020 Blog

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