Hundreds of thousands of masks to be released to district health boards

The Director-General of Health says hundreds of masks will be released to district health boards from the pandemic stock after calls from the healthcare sector for more supplies.

A file image of a woman wearing a face mask. Source: Pexels

In a media conference this afternoon, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said it was crucial that health workers and some of those in essential services were able to access Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

"We are releasing 600,000 masks later today to district health boards from our pandemic stock, we know that we have good production of masks on shore at a rate of more than 200,000 to be produced each day, so we are making sure there is a steady flow of that equipment, both masks and other PPE to our district health boards."

It was already available for a range of health workers and other work was being done to ensure there was enough supply for other essential workers, like those in the supermarkets, for the lockdown period, Dr Bloomfield said.

He reiterated that there was good supply of PPE and the Ministry was working hard today to ensure that it was getting to everyone who needed it, in whatever clinical situation.

"We're making sure that the distribution is rock solid so we're bringing that into a national process and overseeing that from a national level.

"I should emphasise that it's also important that we use the PPE appropriately, so that doesn't mean everybody working in a hospital needs to at all times be wearing a mask or be in PPE. The important thing is that we're using PPE to reduce risk to our health workforce."

There was also advice given to health professionals on when it was necessary to wear them, he said.

On Sunday, the New Zealand Medical Association called on the government to provide more support to healthcare workers. Nine to Noon was also told of community nurses who were told there was only PPE available to nurses who did home visits to confirmed Covid-19 patients.

Nurses Organisation Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku told Nine to Noon that there were concerns for the frontline staff who lack PPE, which was essentially a barrier to prevent transmission or surpress risk to healthcare workers.

It includes gloves, gowns, medical and surgical masks, eye protection, head gear, and hand sanitiser.

"The concern for us is there doesn't appear to be enough equipment and also the management and disposal of that is incredibly important so that nurses don't then take ... the virus back to their families."