Nurses told 'not to worry' about PPE

Staff at the North-West Regional Hospital were told not to worry about using personal protective equipment during a recent "code black" incident, their union says.

The hospital, which is the centre of a major outbreak of COVID-19, has since been closed and staff ordered into quarantine.

Health and Community Sector Union assistant state secretary Robbie Moore said the incident was emblematic of PPE shortages in the health system during the current pandemic.


"There's been pressure on staff not to follow standard procedures already," he said.

"There was an incident about a week and a half ago at the NWRH where we had members who were told not to wear [PPE].

"It was a code black where a patient needed to be restrained, it was a dangerous situation."

Mr Moore said staff had refused the direction because of the risks to their own health.

"Under the Workplace Health and Safety Act, any worker in the country can stop and say 'I'm not doing that because I don't want to endanger myself'," he said.

"But there is implied pressure on people in this industry because you're effectively saying you won't help somebody who needs help - but they're being asked to put their own safety at risk."


The North West Regional Hospital in Burnie. Picture: AAP
The North West Regional Hospital in Burnie. Picture: AAP


Mr Moore said there were shortages of hand sanitiser at some facilities and staff at the Launceston General Hospital had been told to save masks for reuse.

"A pandemic has always been talked about, we should have had a stockpile (but) obviously we don't," he said.

"Management are saying they're doing what they can, but this is a real issue."

Australian Medical Association state president John Burgess said the availability of protective equipment remained an issue.

"PPE availability and practises have been source of significant concern for staff. The current situation remains unclear and we would certainly trust that both the availability of the right PPE which should be there is matched by the appropriate on-the-ground staff support with regards to the PPE use, training and supervision with in the hospital environment," he said.

"It's essential that people can turn up at their workplace appropriately protected for the duties they're undertaking, they need to be able to protect their co-workers and patients with the appropriate PPE used in the appropriate fashion."

Originally published as Nurses told 'not to worry' about PPE