1 Apr 2021
No one expected the snap three-day lockdown in Brisbane, but hopefully it’s done the job to contain two clusters that broke out in Brisbane in March. It occurred just as general practices all over Australia started phase 1b COVID vaccinations. Phase 1b includes vulnerable patients, but also health care workers not already vaccinated in the 1a rollout.
After a doctor at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital contracted COVID from a patient, we became very concerned that doctors and health care workers were exposed to unacceptable risks. We conducted a survey of all doctors working in Queensland hospitals with our industrial relations partner, the Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation Queensland (ASMOFQ). It ran from 16-23 March and received 365 responses with some alarming results.
- Almost half said they regularly treated patients who might be infected with COVID
- 70 per cent had not been fit-tested for P2/N95 masks
- 43 per cent had not been vaccinated
Together with ASMOFQ, we ran a strategic and effective media campaign emphasising the need for frontline health care workers to be vaccinated, and for a consistent program of fit-testing to be rolled-out. We recognise that vaccinations rates have increased and welcome the mandate that only vaccinated doctors and health care workers can now treat COVID patients.
However, fit-testing remains a key risk for the health and safety of doctors and all health care workers treating COVID patients. Fit-testing was a commitment made by the Queensland Government last year and we are ensuring they deliver on this promise.
We have been advised that the Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young, issued a directive to that all health care workers treating COVID patients must now be fit-tested. We will continue to monitor this directive and work with government to ensure this is actioned consistently across the state.
It is also understood The Australian Department of Health will be issuing new national fit-testing guidelines very soon and we will review this document in due course. Our advocacy is clearly influencing government to take effective action on vaccines for frontline health care workers and fit-testing protocols. We are committed to ensuring doctors and all health care workers are safe when treating COVID patients which turn protects our whole community.
It is very good news that the outbreak has been contained so far and we welcome the end of the lockdown. We hope you will be able to spend time with family and friends over the Easter break. Stay safe, stay dry and enjoy the break (if you get one).
Published: 1 Apr 2021