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.”