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Supply fears after new directive to use more face masks more often

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The wearing of surgical masks will become more widespread

The wearing of surgical masks will become more widespread

The wearing of surgical masks will become more widespread

GPs will need a bigger weekly supply of protective wear foll- owing a directive that health workers, including hospital staff, wear surgical face masks if they are within two metres of a patient.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has widened the grounds for wearing surgical masks.

Although many areas of the health service were already using the masks in such situations, the guidance now says that surgical masks should be worn by healthcare workers when providing care within two metres of a patient, regardless of whether they have Covid-19.

Masks should be worn by all healthcare workers for all encounters of 15 minutes or more with other healthcare staff in the workplace where a distance of two metres cannot be maintained.

Internal correspondence from the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) has warned that the directive has implications for the supply of protective wear to GPs, and it highlighted to the HSE that the current allocation of 50 masks per GP per week will not be sufficient.

It means that GPs will wear surgical masks when examining pregnant women, immunising children and consulting patients with long-term illnesses.

Hygiene

"Once you don a mask, it must stay in place until you have finished seeing that group of patients," the advice says.

"You must avoid touching the front of the mask. You must not pull the mask down from your face.

"If you need to take a break such as a toilet break or refreshment, then you need to doff the mask in the correct manner, perform hand hygiene and then don fresh mask before seeing any more patients."

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which had campaigned for the wider use of masks, welcomed the move and said it should have been done weeks ago.

"It will not only benefit frontline healthcare workers, but will reduce the risk of transmission," INMO general secretary Phil Ni Sheaghdha said.