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Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

Mandatory mask ‘fit-testing’ announced for hospitals

Nurses and other healthcare workers will get properly 'fit-tested' N95 masks to protect them from COVID-19, the Victorian government has announced.

As reported by The Age, all coronavirus hospital wards in the state will now employ fit-testing to ensure a mask forms a proper seal around the healthcare professional's face.

Around 2466 healthcare workers have caught the virus at work and the authorities hope this will allay the fears of some workers who have brought PPE to the public attention over the last nine months.

Medical groups had earlier joined forces to campaign for fit-testing machines, The Age reported in August, and one Melbourne hospital whose staff had their masks tested at the time found that 50 per cent of staff were unwittingly wearing masks that did not properly seal.

“You’re going to end up with dead healthcare workers,” said Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious diseases physician at a major Melbourne hospital.

The Victorian government originally only recommended fit-testing, but medical experts, such as Professor Julian Rait, president the Victorian branch of the Australian Medical Association, reported that this was not taken up by hospitals. He welcomed the change in stance by the Andrews Government.

“Although somewhat overdue, this measure will better protect healthcare workers and bring Victoria into line with other states and countries like Canada which mandate N95 fit-testing for all health care workers,” said Rait.

PPE issues have been ubiquitous throughout the pandemic and it has been reported that Victorian reserve stocks of masks fell to “alarmingly low levels” at one point.

Ananda-Rajah co-authored a study compiling stories of more than 400 doctors, nurses, paramedics and aged care workers across Australia and they often detailed the risky rationing of masks during the second wave.

"We have had N95 masks taken out of our hands before going into positive COVID patients," one Victorian hospital physician said.

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