August 25, 2020
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says that data released today that 86% of investigated COVID-19 infections in healthcare workers have been acquired in the workplace is extremely concerning and urgent action must be taken to protect frontline workers, particularly if healthcare workers are the largest cohort of those newly infected with COVID-19.
RACP President Professor John Wilson said “The figures on healthcare worker infections released today in Victoria are extremely concerning and indicate that serious problems are occurring in our healthcare system.
“We welcome the announcement of a Taskforce to tackle this issue – and urge those with the authority to implement the findings, to do so with urgency.
“Healthcare workers have been voicing their concerns for many months that they need greater protection from contracting COVID-19 at work – and the data today vindicates those concerns.
“The protection of staff in affected healthcare settings is clearly still inadequate. We need to see a drastic improvement, including the provision of comprehensive training.
“We must do better to protect our healthcare workers on the frontline of this pandemic.
“In a recent RACP survey we found that 39% of members surveyed had no recent (2020) training in use of PPE.
“We have also expressed our concern that not enough physicians in hospitals have access to appropriate PPE – as reported in our survey where many of our members say they’ve had to purchase their own PPE.
“All hospitals and aged care settings in Victoria should be providing refreshed workplace training on using PPE – as part of a broader risk assessment and management framework in the workplace.
“All Governments have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for healthcare workers, and to commit to a target of zero occupationally acquired infections.”
The RACP has issued guidance on PPE and mask wearing in health and aged care services and the wider community: https://www.racp.edu.au/news-and-events/media-releases/racp-statement-on-use-of-ppe
The results of the RACP’s PPE survey can be found here: https://www.racp.edu.au/news-and-events/media-releases/racp-survey-20-per-cent-of-physicians-in-public-hospitals-sourcing-their-own-ppe-calls-for-greater-transparency-on-government-stockpile
The RACP wants Governments to urgently:
- Commit to a target of zero occupationally-acquired healthcare worker COVID-19 infections.
- Ensure PPE frontline health care workers have access to necessary PPE and required training (in public and private hospitals as well as residential aged care settings).
- Ensure physicians and paediatricians working in private practice in the community are able to access the National Medical Stockpile for their PPE requirements.
- Provide transparent information about reserves in the National Medical Stockpile, including by jurisdiction.
- Report nationally and by jurisdiction on health care workers testing positive to COVID-19 by jurisdiction, age group, occupation, primary workplace, and whether the infection was occupationally acquired.
- Extend PPE requirements for the use of N95 masks to aged-care facilities.