A Perth anaesthetist, passionate advocate for excellence, training and her patients, shared this message for the government with me today. For fear of future impact on her career I am sharing it but if journalists would like to speak with her it can be organised.
“PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
As an anaesthetist at a large hospital in Perth, we have ZERO protective masks to our name. We are not alone, our colleagues in the hospitals and in the community are all crying out for protective equipment.
When we do things to patients such as intubate and manually ventilate them, as we do when people with COVID-19 become critically unwell, we make the virus into an aerosol and we can breath large amounts of this aerosol in. There are reports from countries such as Italy, China and the UK where doctors exposed to this “viral load” are on life-support in intensive care or are dying. These are young, fit doctors, but they are exposed to such a large viral load that they become critically unwell (or worse). To protect us from this viral load, we need special masks. We also need eye protection, waterproof gowns and disposable hats. But let’s just start with masks.
Every year, as per our Department of Health contract, we are meant to be fitted with these masks. I have never been fit tested. Many of my colleagues will not have access to a proper fitting mask, and will need to find another way to protect themselves. We want to start formal testing of our colleagues to ensure they fit these masks. The Department of Health was supposed to be organising this every year but have never done it as far as we know. Now we have no masks to test with. None.
The Government seems to think this is a problem for individual hospitals, but as we complain about the lack of PPE up the hierarchy, it comes straight back down on us. We are going to need in the order of tens of thousands of these masks and this is not feasible for individual hospitals nor individual doctors to organise this. We are your workforce and the workforce for your community. You are sending us to battle without armour.
I ask that you: 1. Are transparent. What PPE do you have for the community of doctors about to face the toughest challenge of their professional life? If you have inadequate, we need to know. We will then find solutions to this problem, instead of wasting time. 2. Make this a priority. No PPE does mean we can theoretically walk off the job. 3. Create a task force to source further PPE. There is a worldwide shortage, yet doctors in other countries are starting to receive large quantities of PPE. Create this and order them now. Order them yesterday.
Thank you in advance.”
Keep going, Andrew. You’re doing a fantastic job. Well done.
Dear Dr Andrew Miller
In your podcast you were asked if it is helpful for people to wear masks, and you more or less said “no”. I find your answer disappointing.
You want us to have an outcome much like Singapore & S/Korea – places where all people immediately donned masks. Yes, there are virtually no masks available, but people can make their own. Even rudimentary masks made with fabric from tea-towels or tee-shirts have been shown to be somewhat effective in filtering out viruses.
[Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2013 Aug;7(4):413-8. doi: 10.1017/dmp.2013.43.]
I think we should encourage people to make masks. Countless people are now sitting at home. Many have sewing machines, who can easily make masks. I have made one for myself yesterday. What materials are best for this purpose? How are they best made? I wished I knew.
Why discourage the gaining of this information? Masks are not complicated things. Countless people have the skills to make masks that can be even better than the mass-produced items.
There is certainly no harm in wearing an ineffective mask, so what is the risk? There is no risk.
In any case, even with a poorly-made mask that is only 10% effective…10 percent is nothing to sneeze at, surely.
I’d like to improve my chances by 10%.
I think your attitude towards masks being worn by us ordinary people (mundanes) is insincere.
There is a shortage of masks. I understand. That is no reason to down-play the importance of masks for the general public. Let’s be like Singapore. Let’s be like S/Korea.
The entire western world is telling us masks do not matter. In reality masks do matter, only our nations have foolishly forgotten how to make things. Now is not the time to cover the shame of our failures.
Masks matter. Start wearing them. Stop with this deception.
While they are in very short supply we need to conserve for healthcare workers. When abundant I agree with you they are helpful.