Qld Health taken to industrial commission over mask fears
A nurses' union is taking Queensland Health to the state's industrial relations commission over concerns health workers are at risk of COVID-19 because of ill-fitting face masks.
The Queensland Nurses and Midwives' Union says it has had no assurances from health officials that fit testing and checking of respiratory protection equipment, including high-filtration face masks, is being carried out effectively across the state's public hospitals.
High-filtration masks, known as P2/N95 respirators, are recommended for protecting health workers treating COVID-19 positive patients, and people suspected as having the virus, the union says.
QNMU secretary Beth Mohle said health workers must be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment and it should be "checked and fitted with a proper seal".
"We still don't have assurances that this is consistently being done across the state's public health system," Ms Mohle said.
"We're now extremely concerned that nurses and other health workers treating COVID positive and, potentially positive patients, are not being properly fit tested for the PPE.
"The consequences of this could be catastrophic."
Ms Mohle said the QNMU had called on Queensland Health to provide an audit of the numbers of workers being fit tested, the type of fit testing undertaken and who was carrying out the fit testing.
She said the response from the department had been "inadequate".
"It's a public health issue which continues to put frontline nurses and the people they treat each and every day, at real risk of COVID-19," Ms Mohle said.
She said the union's concerns had been heightened by two recent COVID-19 virus outbreaks linked to the Princess Alexandra Hospital's infectious diseases ward, 5D, which involved three nurses and a doctor.
About 580 Princess Alexandra Hospital workers were forced into 14 days' quarantine as a result of the clusters, which collectively grew to 23 people. Ward 5D was closed and is yet to reopen.
"There are COVID positive or potentially positive patients being cared for in public health facilities in regional and metropolitan Queensland," Ms Mohle said.
"This is why we are demanding that each and every hospital and health service must report the status of their PPE fit-testing and take action to remedy any shortfalls as soon as possible."
The dispute will be heard in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission from 2pm today.
Comment was sought from Queensland Health.
Originally published as Qld Health taken to industrial commission over COVID mask concerns