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Union seeks assurance as seven Ipswich nurses now carrying virus

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With seven staff now diagnosed with COVID-19, and scores more forced into quarantine, the Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union wants to raise the safety standards.

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QNMU Acting Secretary Sandra Eales said the union was working with West Moreton Hospital and Health Services to ensure staff were being protected.

The union has also written to Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young asking that the advice around the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) make N95/P2 respirators mandatory around suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

The Australian Medical Association has made a similar call on a national level, after outbreaks at several hospitals.

Eales said the current advice allowed for surgical masks to be used in such circumstances, but there was emerging evidence that COVID-19 was more airborne than first thought. That should warrant the safety standards to be lifted.

“Given this evidence, and the Victorian Government’s decision to use only N95/P2 masks around routine care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the QNMU has called for similar guidelines to be introduced in Queensland’s public hospitals and health services,” Eales said.

Eales said the N95/P2 masks also needed to be fit tested and fit checked to ensure their effectiveness.

In parliament on Wednesday, after the two latest cases of COVID-19 in Ipswich Hospital staff were concerned, Deputy Premier Steven Miles said he was confident staff had the PPE they needed.

“I can advise the House that we have more than 100 million N95 masks in stock. I can also advise the House that at Ipswich Hospital, where clearly we have bolstered their protective equipment supply in addition to their normal supply, they have 8,000 additional surgical masks and 8000 additional N95 masks.

“This government will do everything it can and has done everything it can to make sure that our health staff have every single thing they need to keep themselves safe.”

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