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New PPE supplies ‘critical’ for overcoming pandemic


Anastasia Tsirtsakis


20/04/2020 4:29:20 PM

The Federal Government has secured 60 million face masks for frontline health workers. But how many will be delivered to GPs?

Healthcare worker wearing face mask.
Sufficient PPE for health workers on the frontline will play a key role in the road out of the pandemic, says Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt.

A new delivery of protective face masks has arrived ahead of schedule, of which 11.5 million will be distributed immediately to health workers deemed to be most at risk of COVID-19.
 
The shipment included six million more masks than previously predicted and should allow for additional mask allocations from the national medical stockpile, including to primary health networks (PHNs).
 
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said 100 million additional masks have been secured for between now and the end of May, and will be distributed immediately across hospitals, aged care facilities, general practices, pharmacies, as well as to allied health workers and pathologists.
 
‘What this means is that we are able to protect our healthcare workers in what has been an intensely competitive global environment,’ Minister Hunt said.
 
‘A critical path on the road out is the role of PPE [personal protective equipment].’
 
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon welcomed the news, but said ‘it is important that GPs see the results of this new influx of masks’.
 
‘We are still hearing reports that many GPs don’t have enough PPE and are having to source their own,’ Dr Nespolon told newsGP.
 
‘GPs are playing a key role in keeping patients out of hospitals, and to continue flattening the curve, they need access to masks, gowns and goggles.’
 
A lack of PPE has been a major concern for GPs since the early stages of the pandemic, with the deficit still causing anxiety among frontline medical workers.
 
Chair of RACGP Victoria Dr Cameron Loy told newsGP recently that his clinic had only two gowns left, dubbing the situation ‘completely unreasonable’.
 
‘We’ve had lots of promises of PPE, but it’s still yet to really materialise in general practices,’ he said.
 
To address concerns around PPE supply, demand and usage in Victoria, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) set up a PPE taskforce this month, headed by Safer Care Victoria Chief Medical Officer Professor Andrew Wilson.
 
Among the advisors to the taskforce is GP and RACGP Victoria Council member Dr Bernard Shiu. 
 
‘Working in healthcare settings is a risk and we are grateful to all our health workforce for stepping up and caring for all Victorians during this coronavirus pandemic,’ Professor Wilson previously told newsGP.
 
‘This will help us to ensure all healthcare workers in our public health system continue to have access to adequate PPE, so they can protect themselves while doing their very important job – saving lives.’
 
At the time of publication on 20 April, close to 22 million masks had been distributed.
 
Minister Hunt said equipping healthcare workers with PPE would open the possibility of elective surgery – in particular, IVF treatment – recommencing sooner than previously thought possible, with the matter to be considered at the next national cabinet meeting.
 
With flu season around the corner, the Federal Government has also secured three million additional doses of seasonal influenza vaccines, taking the total number of vaccines available to 16.5 million.
 
They will be distributed and made available through GPs and pharmacies from April through to June.
 
‘It is positive to hear the Australian Government has secured three million additional doses of seasonal influenza vaccines. Given the risk of COVID-19, this year it is more important than ever to receive your flu vaccination administered by a trusted GP,’ Dr Nespolon said.
 
‘However, general practices have reported shortages and long wait times between vaccine deliveries.
 
‘General practices have geared up to deliver influenza vaccinations in the lowest risk environment as possible and is the only place that you can get your specific over-65 influenza immunisation.’
 
More than four million doses of Fluad Quad, for people aged 65 and over, have been secured as part of the National Immunisation Program (NIP) — enough to provide free vaccines to almost 100% of the cohort.
 
Australians urged to get vaccinated earlier this year seem to be getting the message, with 2.1 million flu vaccines administered since 1 March, compared to 624,000 at the same time in 2019.
 
As a precautionary measure to keep the elderly safe, as of 1 May 2020, all aged care workers and visitors will have to be vaccinated to enter an aged care facility.
 
Meanwhile, rural and remote communities have received $52 million for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) to assist during the pandemic.
 
Recent research revealed rural and coastal areas are particularly at risk from coronavirus-related deaths, due to older populations and a higher prevalence of chronic diseases.  
 
The funds will go towards helping the RFDS to evacuate initial and suspected COVID-19 cases, deliver fly-in GP respiratory clinics, and replenish PPE stocks.
 
‘Our support for rural, regional and remote communities is about minimising the likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 while increasing the capacity to evacuate early cases and provide a rapid response should an outbreak occur,’ Federal Regional Health Minister Mark Coulton said.
 
The RACGP has more information on coronavirus available on its website.
 
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Dr Pradeep Harshan Jayasuriya   21/04/2020 12:29:47 PM

At the end of this crisis, serious questions need answering about the low priority and protection afforded to GPs .


Dr Martyn Taylor   21/04/2020 11:17:06 PM

This all sounds very good but is not what is being delivered- our clinic has not received any supply of ppe eg masks... 11.5 million masks?... where are they going? We have a clinic with > 10 GP’s .. out practice manager has a box of about 5 masks! Out local PHN is not supplying any stock either


Dr Jane Margaret Leah Chapman   22/04/2020 10:13:02 AM

I do not have ANY PPE. I have contacted PHN 2 weeks ago and not heard anything. How do I receive a small amount of PPE?