An emergency doctor has said Australian senior medics fighting coronavirus on the frontline have been forced to source their staff’s own personal protective equipment (PPE) from Bunnings.
Former vice president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Dr Stephen Parnis made the claim on ABC’s Q&A on Monday night amid a shortage of PPE for those testing and treating COVID-19 patients.
“We’re all very worried about the provision of personal protective equipment,” he said.
“I’ve seen department directors going to Bunnings, I’ve seen people look and hope they might have contacts overseas and it’s probably the number one concern of health workers.”
The AMA has continuously stressed PPE is in scarce supply for Australia’s medical teams around the country, with medics suffering anxiety and stress over the situation.
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An AMA Queensland survey of more than 600 doctors found 70 per cent said they did not have enough protective equipment.
More than 50 per cent of doctors were buying their own equipment, while almost 85 per cent said they were not confident they would have enough in the near future.
Some doctors said they were resorting to making their own hand sanitiser, the survey found.
“It’s a stressful time for us all ... we’ve seen what’s happened overseas,” Dr Parnis said, revealing he too has been forced to ration supplies at his practice.
However state governments around the country have stressed stockpiles of PPE are sufficient, while the government has announced production of face masks and other items will be ramped up in the coming weeks.
Adelaide business Demtold will churn out 145 million masks to be distributed nationally alone.
But Dr Parnis said increasing PPE supplies was complex, and relied on the government bringing supplies in from overseas, where global demand has resulted in countries bidding against one another to land the coveted supplies.
Telehealth has also been implemented which allows patients to call their doctors instead of paying them a visit.
“Critically, it will reduce avoidable use of PPE,” President of the AMA Dr Tony Bartone said.
Yet Dr Parnis said medics fear the situation could worsen in Australia and being “overwhelmed” has left those fighting the virus “really worried”.
Another concern is the widespread public use of masks, which if it continues to increase, could decimate the supply for hospitals and medical centres.
ABC’s medical expert Dr Norman Swan previously warned against the use of masks to protect stock levels for those most in need, however with a number of countries now advising the use of masks, some making it compulsory, Australia has seen a rise in face mask usage from the public.
In a recent Yahoo News Australia poll of 13,500 people, 40 per cent of people said they were now wearing masks to leave the home.
Research suggesting up to 50 per cent of coronavirus cases are asymptomatic has contributed to the rise in usage, however Associate Professor Ben Mullins at Curtin University’s School of Public Health, an aerosol deposition expert, stressed to Yahoo News Australia face masks were no substitute for the social distancing Australia was currently enacting.
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