Thousands of doctors and nurses from across the country are rallying the Government for more effective personal protective equipment (PPE) in the fight against Covid-19.

Calls from health care workers include:

• Face masks to be made available and worn by all hospital staff.

• Every health worker caring for confirmed or probable Covid-19 patients should wear N95 masks, hazmat suits, goggles and full-face shields.

Advertisement

• Full PPE - including N95 masks, hazmat suits, goggles and full-face shields - should also be used when testing patients for Covid-19.

It comes after the Ministry of Health advised that gloves and face masks were only recommended to hospital workers who couldn't ensure one-metre distance from people with potential Covid-19 symptoms.

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: Mother of child with disability wants PPE for care workers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Senior doctor union calls for an end to theft of protective gear
Covid 19 coronavirus: Ministry to address personal protection equipment for healthcare workers
Covid 19 coronavirus: Concerns that hospital nurses have no access to masks

Some doctors say they have "real concerns" with these guidelines calling the ministry's response "woefully inadequate".

A petition - signed by more than 14,00 New Zealanders - was calling on the Ministry of Health to follow overseas guidelines which included N95 masks, hazmat suits, googles and full face shields for every health worker caring for those with confirmed or probable Covid-19.

"We are risking our lives to save others and without effective PPE healthcare workers in the frontline are very vulnerable," Zoe Mead, who started the petition, said on the page.

Mead said as Covid-19 continued to spread worldwide and within New Zealand, one major concerns New Zealand healthcare workers had was the lack of correct PPE.

"With the current guidelines from MoH it is clear that we are going to fall short of a safe working environment.

Advertisement

"With every case of Covid-19 there is a risk of a hospital outbreak. Putting healthcare workers and patients at risk," Mead said on the page.

She said the ministry has stated that healthcare workers should be using surgical masks for all interactions with Covid-19 patients except when providing aerosol generating procedures.

"However, multiple outlets have proven that surgical masks are not effective protection against Covid-19, especially when we are likely to spend over 15 minutes with patients at a time.

"Please give us the PPE we need and deserve to keep patients and ourselves safe before it's too late."

Meanwhile, a separate petition calling for all hospital workers to wear face masks was also gaining momentum and had been signed by more than 19,500 New Zealanders.

"Lots of doctors and nurses all over New Zealand do not have face masks, and some of them are even not allowed to wear face masks," the page said.

"Hospitals should remove all restrictions related to face mask-wearing, and encourage staff to wear a face mask to protect themselves, as well as to protect their friends and relatives."

A letter written by obstetrician and gynaecologist Sarah Corbett and maternal fetal medicine specialist Dr Emma Parry calling for urgent action on the issue was also being shared on social media.

Corbett and Parry were asking their colleagues to sign it before they planned to send it privately to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Health Minister David Clark, and the Ministry of Health's Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield on Wednesday April 1.

"We have real concerns that the guidelines are not fit for purpose in terms of protecting the bubble of healthcare providers."

The race is on to find a vaccine for COVID-19.

The pair said current screening to determine whether a patient was considered a possible Covid-19 case was woefully inadequate.

"The screening process is key in determining whether the droplet PPE should be used during patient interaction vs standard precautions of hand washing and gloves only.

"We already know of patients who have screened as low risk but are actually revealed to be possible or confirmed cases after contact is made."

They said the assurances from the ministry that there was plenty of PPE rang hollow.

"We feel that the MoH guidelines do not truly protect our healthcare workforce. The implications of getting the screening wrong are massive.

"If our key healthcare workers start becoming sick then you will jeopardise our ability to deliver even basic healthcare to New Zealanders."

Their comments come as the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) this morning released a survey showing 656 dentists across the country, providing emergency care, had been forced to shut due to not having adequate safety equipment.

"We are being told by members that there is simply not enough PPE available to substantially offer emergency dental services within the guidelines enforced by the Dental Council.

"Dentists are incredibly upset that they are unable to help patients, many of whom are in dire need, due to the lack of PPE," NZDA president Dr Katie Ayers said.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website

Health officials said the most important action was regular hand washing.

In regards to PPE, they said:

• If you can ensure more than one-metre distance from people with possible Covid-19 and any surfaces or items they may touch – face masks and gloves are not recommended.

• If the nature of your job means you may touch surfaces or items also touched by people with potential Covid-19 symptoms, you may consider wearing gloves, however face masks are still not recommended.

• If you may be unable to maintain more than one-metre contact distance from people with potential Covid-19 symptoms, face masks and gloves are recommended when this contact is likely to occur.