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Victoria has the PPE it needs: premier

As coronavirus infections among Victorian healthcare workers rise daily, Premier Daniel Andrews has promised the state has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment.

Victoria reported 466 new cases on Saturday, 140 of them attributed to healthcare workers.

There are 998 active cases in the sector with nurses and aged care workers the most heavily represented.

Mr Andrews said there are 68 million pairs of gloves, 19 million surgical masks and two million face shields currently stored in a PPE warehouse.

His efforts to reassure the sector came in response to an Australian College of Nursing survey of 750 nurses, which found many were feeling frightened and vulnerable.

“If there is any improvement we need to make, we would stand ready to do that,” Mr Andrews said.

“I want to give a shout out not just to our nurses. They are doing an amazing job – all the team across our healthcare system.

“This is an anxious time, a challenging time. We’ve got the supplies.”

The premier said it was a difficult getting hold of the necessary amount of PPE because the whole world was after it.

“I can confirm that last night … we approved a whole lot of additional orders. All sorts of other masks,” he said.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said nurses and aged care workers made up the larger proportion of virus-infected healthcare workers and it was vital to ensure they have the PPE they need.

There is widespread concern in the Victorian health sector about whether enough is being done to protect those caring for COVID-19 patients.

The Australian Medical Association has been critical of the federal Infection Control Expert Group for not recommending P2 or N95 respirator masks in all COVID-19 care settings.

However, Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth on Saturday defended the ICEG saying the esteemed group’s advice had come directly from “discussions on the ground” with those investigating how individual healthcare workers contracted the virus.

The influential health advisory group’s guidelines state it is only mandatory to wear the P2 or N95 masks when a COVID-19 patient is in a challenging setting or is exhibiting “challenging behaviours” such as shouting.

The Australian Society of Anaesthetists has voiced the need for the masks and has repeatedly questioned whether hospitals’ guidelines go far enough to protect staff.

The ASA has also highlighted the importance of “fit-testing” PPE so that virus particles cannot penetrate clinicians’ safety gear.

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