16 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Burwood Hospital workers only now given N95 masks, visors

8:12 am on 16 April 2020

Health workers on the frontline of the deadliest cluster of covid-19 cases have only just been given access to the most protective type of face masks.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital.

Health workers take part in ICU training for Covid-19 at Hutt Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Six patients from the Rosewood Rest Home have died from Covid-19 at Burwood Hospital and there are eight still being treated there with the disease.

Health authorities have always said they have had access to personal protective equipment.

But Burwood Hospital general manager Dan Coward said they had only had access to full face visors and the safer N95 masks since yesterday.

The change was to give staff options, not because the gear they had been wearing was substandard, he said.

Some staff had said goggles were uncomfortable and they would prefer to wear visors, he said.

But the Nurses' Organisation kaiwhakahaere, Kerri Nuku, said that was not correct and staff wanted the visors because these were safer.

"You're dealing with sometimes dementia level 4 patients who don't always know what they're doing. You are likely to get sputum or something else on your cheek and the visors can provide that full protection," she said.

The staff should have been able to wear the higher standard of equipment long before now, she said.

They were caring and dedicated, and the tragic situation was a lot for them to deal with both professionally and emotionally, she said.

They should be able to use their judgement about the gear that would make them feel safe, she said.

Coward said the hospital had been following the Ministry of Health guidelines and taking advice from clinicians on the type of protective equipment offered to staff.

Staff had been going the extra mile to care for patients and he was incredibly proud of them, he said.

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