The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said some Victorian hospitals had missed the state government deadline for a plan to deal with future coronavirus outbreaks, despite assurances from the Minister of Health.
- Health Minister Martin Foley said all hospitals had respiratory protection programs in place by the end of October
- But WADA says some hospitals “haven’t started” and doctors won’t be protected by guidelines that aren’t being acted upon
- Infectious disease doctor says there are wide variations in Melbourne hospital readiness and audits are needed
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said all healthcare facilities must have a respiratory protection program in place by October 31, which includes staff to test fit for N95 masks, training and risk assessment.
Health Minister Martin Foley said on Saturday that all health facilities had met the deadline.
“I understand he was hit,” he said.
“I look forward to receiving a brief in the very near future on how we can continue to reduce these infection rates among our health workers, not only for the protection of our health workers, but also to their families, their co-workers and of course, their patients. ”
There are three healthcare workers who are active cases of COVID-19 in Victoria, and 3,577 healthcare workers have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic.
A cluster in Melbourne’s northern suburbs that delayed the city’s reopening has been blamed for infection at Box Hill Hospital.
Sarah Whitelaw of AMA Victoria said it was good that the government needed a respiratory plan to prevent the spread of the virus in healthcare settings, but staff experience was that the plans didn’t had not been completed.
“It is disconcerting and really stressful for staff to hear public announcements that are so far removed from their experience in the field, and we have conveyed that message very strongly,” she said.
Dr Whitelaw said some hospitals have completed a respiratory protection program, including fit testing for staff requiring N95 masks and a ventilation audit.
She said more would finish within the next two months, but several hospitals had not even purchased the machine needed to do fit tests yet.
“Some hospitals haven’t started up,” she said.
“We know there are staff shortages, we know there are resource limitations, so it’s not about expecting the impossible, it’s about saying what happens. going on here, why didn’t we meet the deadlines that we weren’t able to meet, and what do you need to make it happen? ”
Dr Whitelaw said more communication with clinical staff is needed.
“It’s one thing to develop a plan and it’s another to be able to ask clinicians and field staff what you need to get there, how long will it take, what resources additional do you need to achieve this. , ” she says.
“Victoria now has some of the best guidelines in the country for respiratory protection programs, but putting them into practice is far from the reality. “
A DHHS spokesperson said work had also started on auditing ventilation in clinical settings, which was promised in August.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said on Sunday he understood that “a lot of work” had been undertaken to put the plans in place, but “you can’t do it all instantly.”
“We absolutely encourage, we develop all the policies around this and I know that they meet regularly to move this forward,” he said.
“But what each health facility does, I’m not sure. I know it [Chief Medical Officer Andrew Wilson] insists that this unfold as completely as possible. ”
Infectious disease doctor requests regular audits
Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious disease physician, calls for regular auditing of respiratory plans in health care settings, including fit testing and ventilation.
“It would be absolutely unwise to assume that we are no longer going to have hospitalized COVID patients, and it only takes one COVID patient to trigger an epidemic that recurs in the community,” said Dr Ananda-Rajah.
“We can’t afford to have this as we move towards a recovery. “
She said there was a lot of variation in COVID plans in Melbourne hospitals.
“It’s not clear why this is the case, why there is so much variation in these health services, and I think questions really need to be asked about it,” she said.