‘Very dangerous’: Docs’ dire warning over masks
DOCTORS claim they are dangerously short of medical masks to protect them from deadly COVID-19, despite millions of masks stored in a federal government stockpile.
Surgeons revealed on Saturday that a mask shortage was the sole reason for cancelling elective surgeries last week.
The Royal Australian College of Surgeons' executive director for surgical affairs, Dr John Quinn, said every hospital in Australia needs more medical masks.
"Goggles, face shields, gowns and gloves are also in short supply,'' he said.
"We're told the peak of infection for COVID-19 will be at some time in the near future.
"If all the protective equipment is used up before then and not available, we'll be in a very dangerous situation.''
Dr Quinn, the director of medical services at St Vincent's Private Hospital in Brisbane, said he had been told more masks were on the way.
"I'm not sure where (the masks) are, or who they are released to, but they're in short supply on the ground,'' he said.
"This is a very trying time for everybody.''
GPs are having to buy their own masks through word of mouth, despite Prime Minister Scott Morrison repeatedly claiming Australia has enough masks to protect health workers in the pandemic.
Health Minister Steven Miles said he was confident in supply chains and stockpiles for protected equipment at this time.
"Our doctors, nurses and health staff are the heroes of COVID-19 and we will make sure - we will always make sure - they have what they need to do their job taking care of Queenslanders," he said.
"Right now there is a significant stockpile at the distribution centre of all of that equipment and our doctors and nurses and health professionals should be assured they will have access to sufficient numbers."
Mr Miles said anyone using the protective equipment should treat them as valuable.
"There is a global shortage of this equipment so we have encouraged them to treat them as a valuable resource," he said.
"Everyone else who uses this same protective equipment there is a global shortage we are getting as much of it as we can. We have sufficient stocks but it is valuable."
Royal Australian College of GPs Queensland chairman Dr Bruce Willett yesterday said doctors were having to import masks directly "through someone who knows someone, by word of mouth''.
"We're still very nervous about masks,'' the Victoria Point GP said yesterday.
"If we run out, there's a stage when I can't ask the doctors to put themselves at risk.''
Dr Willett said his 20 doctors had been given only 50 surgical masks - which must be changed every half-hour - and 20 respiratory P2 masks from the national stockpile.
"The Prime Minister says there's a stockpile of masks but I don't know where they are,'' he said.
"At some stage there are going to be a lot of people with COVID-19 so I'm looking at sourcing some very expensive P2 masks at $5 each.''
A Federal Health Department spokesman said 2 million surgical and P2 masks had already been distributed to doctors and pharmacists from the national medical stockpile.
He said dentists and pathologists were also buying masks from the government at cost price.
The government had contracted suppliers to provide 54 million masks.
"These will be available for a range of medical and aged care professionals to care for patients with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19,'' he said.
"Masks are already arriving in the country and will be distributed as soon as possible after arrival.''
The Sunday-Mail revealed last week that hospitals had started rationing masks.
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in QLD
Originally published as 'Very dangerous': Docs' dire warning over masks