Local News - Victoria

Government makes fit-testing of masks mandatory on COVID wards

Without a proper seal, even the best mask will not offer perfect protection against the virus, as air can leak around the sides.

One study in a NSW hospital found even the best mask tested failed fit-testing 18 per cent of the time. One mask in widespread use failed testing 71 per cent of the time.

The Victorian government announced on Friday it would roll fit-testing out to all coronavirus hospital wards in the state.

Every health service will be required to have a respiratory protection program in place by the end of October, which includes mask fitting and training. Fit-testing machines will be rolled out as a part of that program.

The Age revealed serious concerns from healthcare workers about the lack of fit-testing in the state’s hospitals in August.

Some medicos had taken to paying for the testing themselves.

“You’re going to end up with dead healthcare workers,” said Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah, an infectious diseases physician at a major Melbourne hospital who has been campaigning for mandatory fit-testing, in August. “We’d be happy to pay for this ourselves.”

Up until now, Victoria’s Health Department had recommended fit-testing but had not made it mandatory.

“While we’re pleased to see the rate of healthcare worker infections trending down its critical that we continue to boost protection for our healthcare heroes in line with the best expert advice,” said Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos.

The move won backing from the Australian Medical Association Victoria.

“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 association president Julian Rait.

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