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Secure supply of masks must be ensured to protect health workers.

Media Release
Richard Di Natale 5 Mar 2020

Today’s reports of insufficient access to protective masks for front line GPs in the face of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency is of significant concern, Greens spokesperson for Health Dr Richard Di Natale has said today.

It is essential that our health workers, in particular, those directly responding to possible Coronavirus cases within the community, have access to an ongoing, sufficient supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks.

Yesterday at Senate estimates the government told Dr Di Natale, a public health specialist who has worked in infectious disease control and outbreak response, that this supply was readily available. Today it appears that is not the whole story.

“When GPs are seeking masks from Bunnings to protect themselves and their patients, rather getting them from official suppliers or the national stockpile, there is a problem.” Dr Di Natale said

“The government has released some masks from the national medical stockpile to Primary Health Networks but doctors are finding that the supplies available are inadequate for their needs. The government must seek to provide urgent assurance to GPs and other front line workers that this supply can be confirmed.”

Dentists are facing having to close their doors as a result of a lack of access to the masks they need to practice.

“If the supply for dentists cannot be urgently secured we will see the closure of dental clinics across the country, with knock-on impacts for patients and the health system.”

“Overall the Chief Medical Officers from the commonwealth and states and territories have led a strong response to the Coronavirus situation. Tomorrow the government is holding a COVID-19 meeting with GPs and those in primary care, it is essential that some assurances be provided at that time.”

It is also critical that the government bring forward a commitment for a Coronavirus Telehealth MBS item to allow for remote consultations and reduce the risk to health workers and other patients.

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