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Sir Ray Launches PPE Media Campaign

Today Sir Ray Avery announced the launch of a media campaign HELP to highlight the importance of New Zealand’s frontline medical staff having access to lifesaving Personal Protective Clothing (PPE) when dealing with people potentially infected with covid 19. HELP VIDEO

Hundreds of frontline medical staff around the world have died of Covid-19 infection and the need for appropriate PPE is irrefutable.

PPE clothing should do three things, (a) Protect the caregiver from infection by the patient and the ambient environment.(b) Protect the patient from infection caused by the caregiver.(c) Prevent patient to patient infection.

Selecting the correct PPE and training front line staff in gowning procedures is essential to saving the lives of caregivers and patients.

Sadly, none of the lessons learnt from frontline medical staff throughout the world have been adopted by the New Zealand Ministry of Health and local DHB’s.

There is in fact a massive civil war in our DHB’s between front line medical staff and the DHB Senior administrators.

Middlemore Hospital threatened to stand down a clinician for wearing appropriate PPE because it “is frightening other workers “and the union representing nurses claims Waikato Hospital nurses who caught COVID-19 were told to remove PPE.

In a more recent case, a nurse was infected by a patient despite wearing the DHB recommended PPE which illustrates the importance of wearing the correct PPE.

This shows just how far we are away from understanding the rights of our frontline health workers and the legal responsibility of all employers to ensure their workers operate in a safe non-life threatening environment.

The Ministry of Health and the individual DHB’s have a fiduciary and moral responsibility to ensure that their staff are issued with appropriate protective PPE to prevent or reasonably mitigate infection and possible death due to a preventable covid -19 infection. To not do this would be considered reckless conduct in the respect of duty (section 47 of the HSWA).

However, in practice, no one apparently gives a shit.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield has washed his hands of any responsibility saying that the PPE issue is a matter for the individual DHB’s to work out with their medical staff.

He has also repeatedly stated that there is no shortage of PPE for frontline medical staff.

This is not true.

As former Chair of the New Zealand Health innovation Hub which represented all the major DHB’s in the country, I am in constant contact with both hospital staff and aged care frontline workers.

The feedback from the frontline staff is that they either have no PPE or they are being asked not to use it pending a possible Covid -19 outbreak.

It is significant that 30% of all recent covid -19 infections in New Zealand were in frontline medical staff and that the majority of deaths attributed to covid -19 infections were associated with contact with front line medial staff.

It is arguably true that if the front line medical staff were wearing the correct PPE then many of these deaths may have been preventable. There is no social distancing in primary healthcare.

We are sending our frontline medical staff into battle without the proper PPE which can not only save their lives but the lives of their patients.

It is not only vitally important that front line medical staff wear PPE but also that the PPE is fit for purpose .

In Hospital testing we have shown that the average person in a ICU unit wearing street clothing would produce 50,000 particles per minute including dead skin cells and bacteria. A nurse wearing a mask and standard ICU gowns will produce 5,000 particles per minute. However, a nurse wearing FDA Class 11 approved coveralls, mask overshoes and googles will only produce 5 particles per minute and mitigate the risk of infection to both caregivers and patients.

The current Ministry of Health Guidelines for PPE do not mirror the lessons learnt in other countries and are woefully inadequate with respect to protecting our frontline staff.

Right now New Zealand has the second highest rate of Hospital Acquired Infections in the developed world so let’s all work together to see if we can turn these figures around and make sure our frontline health workers can remain safe and well and do what they do best under very challenging circumstances; save lives.

Support the campaign to save the lives of our frontline medical staff by signing the petition

Sir Ray Avery

Sir Ray Avery is a Pharmaceutical Scientist and an expert in PPE and the control of microbiological contamination in closed environments such as hospitals and pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing facilities.

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