Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service has assured the safety of its hospital and staff remains its number one priority
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service has assured the safety of its hospital and staff remains its number one priority

Hospital defends itself after nurse's 'unsafe' masks claims

Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service has assured the safety of its staff was its number one priority. 

The call comes after a local fever clinic nurse spoke out about "unsafe" surgical masks she claimed did not sufficiently protect staff on the frontlines.

A spokeswoman for the service said the face masks were only one part of the protection in place for its staff.

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"The use of physical distancing, hand hygiene, other personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, gowns and eye protection are all important elements of keeping our team safe," she said.

"We want our staff to feel safe. That's why we take precautions based on clinical evidence, and guided by the experts.

"The use of surgical masks and protective eyewear such as face shields or eye shields (both of which are available to our staff) for staff working in fever clinics and in inpatient areas is in line with national and statewide PPE guidelines.

"N95/P2 masks are recommended where staff are conducting procedures which generate aerosols (such as intubation, open suctioning of airways, certain dental procedures) in suspect/probable/confirmed cases of COVID-19.

"Under guidelines, the collection of a nasal swab is not considered an aerosol generating procedure."

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union called for only N95/P2 masks to be used to care for patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.

The union's acting secretary, Sandra Eales, said it was the best defence against transmitting the disease.

The nurse, who did not want to be name for fear of losing her job, has been testing patients in a drive-through fever clinic for months on end.

She said the directive change was an "outrageous" demand that could put the community at risk.

"How can they make these calls when they're in their offices and we are the ones on the front lines?" the nurse said.

The nurse said the masks staff have been directed to use failed to fit the face properly and left gaps.

"We are all fed up after this. The surgical masks are outrageous and don't provide protection," she said.

"It puts us at risk. It puts everyone at risk.

"If we get infected, there will be no nurses left."


Ms Eales said there was developing evidence that suggests there is potentially greater airborne transmission of COVID-19 than initially suspected.

"Given this evidence, and the Victorian Government's decision to use only N95/P2 masks around routine care for patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the QNMU has called for similar guidelines to be introduced in Queensland's public hospitals and health services," Ms Eales said.

"N95 and P2 masks are the best available defence against airborne transmission for those in contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

"The union believes that given the potential risks facing the community and the health of frontline members, the precautionary principle should be adopted.