Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and face shields is vital in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Face shields are designed to cover the sides of the face and below the chin. Face shields may be reusable or disposable, and are worn together with surgical masks.

ALERT: Update on PPE use: face shields in areas of significant community transmission

The Department of Health, through Minister Greg Hunt has just announced new advice advising the wearing of face shields in addition to face masks in all clinical settings in areas with significant community transmission.

Health care workers have been urged to take additional precautions to protect themselves at this time. The advice regarding addition of face shields has been recommended for all clinical settings including aged care, hospitals, outpatient clinics, private practice settings and in-home care.

Advice to health workers in aged care is available online. This advice notes that in addition to the supply of face shields being made available to residential aged care facilities through the National Medical Stockpile, there will be additional quantities of surgical masks made available to the sector as well.

Advice to health workers across settings in significant community transmission areas is available online.

Speech pathologists should note the additional advice to cease all aerosol generating procedures (AGPs) wherever possible. If proceeding to perform AGPs, the advice contained therein recommends use of contact and airborne precautions (including N95 mask rather than surgical mask) and eye protection.

Members are reminded to consult the the Association's Guidance for Service Delivery Document and the the Association's online Risk Assessment Tool in considering whether to proceed with in-person services at this time.

Additionally, members are advised to advised to stay up to date with their local community transmission rates, and relevant local State and Territory health department advice as the situation relating to COVID19 and advice re PPE use is rapidly changing.

Read the Minister for Health’s announcement on face shields.

Prioritisation of access to surgical masks

Speech Pathology Australia is pleased to announce that after significant advocacy work, allied health professionals are now eligible for limited access to surgical masks from the national Medical Stockpile. The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, recently announced a one-off deployment of 500,000 surgical masks for allied health professionals with distribution to be managed by Primary Health Networks (PHNs).

Distribution of surgical masks will be based on prioritisation of risk for allied health professionals who do not have access to commercial supply and are working in higher-risk clinical areas, and with higher risk vulnerable patients. Individual PHNs will seek to distribute surgical masks based on local need. In doing so they have been asked to consider:

  • The likelihood of the worker having direct or close contact with high-risk patients who are presenting with fever and/or respiratory symptoms. For example: a respiratory physiotherapist working with patients with cough, sore throat and/or shortness of breath
  • The extent to which the allied health professional can manipulate their environment or practice method to reduce the chance of transmission. For example: a diagnostic radiographer cannot easily change their mode of practise or environment, whereas other allied health professionals may be able to continue to provide services through telehealth.
  • The relative vulnerability of the patients that the allied health professionals are treating. For example: where the allied health professional is routinely treating patients who are immunocompromised, or those who are elderly or have a disability.
  • The risk of transmission, for instance some interventions performed by speech pathologists and respiratory physiotherapists are aerosol generating and therefore higher risk.

The Australian Department of Health has provided national guidance on prioritisation. Several allied health professions have been deemed high priority. These are:

  • Speech pathologists
  • Respiratory physiotherapists
  • Sonographers
  • Diagnostic radiographers

Other professions that provide hands-on interventions have been categorised as moderate priority. These are:

  • Orthotists/prosthetists
  • Other physiotherapists
  • Podiatrists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Exercise physiologists
  • Osteopaths
  • Orthoptists
  • Chiropractors
  • Audiologists
  • Optometrists

Access to surgical masks for other professions will depend on availability. There remains an assumption that allied health professions will, where possible, not see patients with respiratory symptoms or at a higher risk of COVID-19 unless required to as part of their core business (for example: an optometrist can defer seeing a patient with respiratory symptoms until that person is well). It is important to note that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including surgical masks, is a last line of defence in infection control and prevention. PPE does not replace the need for modifications to practise such as telehealth and physical distancing.

How to apply to receive surgical masks from Victorian and Tasmanian PHNs

Individual PHNs have in place processes for access to PPE. Allied health practices with demonstrated need should first determine which PHN region they belong to. A list of PHNs can be found at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/PHN-Locator and you can search for your PHN by address.

Once you’ve identified your PHN, please refer to the list below. If your PHN is not included in this list, please use the contact details on the Department of Health website to get in touch with your PHN.

PHN General website Mask ordering process - Allied Health

Eastern Melbourne PHN

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Gippsland PHN

PHN COVID website

To request a supply, or if you have any questions, please contact Gippsland PHN:

Phone: 03 5175 5444

Email:info@gphn.org.au

North Western Melbourne

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Murray PHN

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Primary Health Tasmania

PHN COVID website

Visit the PHN COVID website, navigate to ‘surgical masks’ and follow the instructions.

South Eastern Melbourne PHN

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Western Victoria

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Tasmania PHN

PHN COVID website

Visit the PHN COVID website, navigate to ‘surgical masks’ and follow the instructions.

 

How to apply to receive surgical masks from NSW and ACT PHNs

Individual PHNs have in place processes for access to PPE. Allied health practices with demonstrated need should first determine which PHN region they belong to.

A list of PHNs can be found at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/PHN-Locator and you can search for your PHN by address.

Once you’ve identified your PHN, please refer to the list below. If your PHN is not included in this list, please use the contact details on the Department of Health website to get in touch with your PHN.

PHN General website Mask ordering process

ACT (Capital Health)

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Central and Eastern Sydney

PHN COVID website

See the information regarding masks for allied health. Online ordering process

Hunter New England Central Coast

PHN website

Online ordering process

Murrumbidgee

PHN website

Online ordering process

Nepean Blue Mountains PHN

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

North Coast NSW PHN

PHN COVID website

Look at the information regarding surgical masks and follow the process by ordering (currently being updated)

North Sydney PHN

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

SENSW PHN (Coordinare)

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

South Western Sydney PHN COVID website
See information about surgical mask and follow the process for ordering. Email enquiries to enquiries@swsphn.com.au
Western Sydney PHN COVID website
Online ordering process
Western NSW PHN COVID website
Online ordering process

 

How to apply to receive surgical masks from South Australian PHNs

Individual PHNs have in place processes for access to PPE. Allied health practices with demonstrated need should first determine which PHN region they belong to.

A list of PHNs can be found at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/PHN-Locator and you can search for your PHN by address.

Once you’ve identified your PHN, please refer to the list below for specific information on how to apply for the surgical masks.

PHN General website Mask ordering process

Country SA

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Adelaide

PHN COVID website

See the information on surgical masks and complete the 'Pharmacy, Aboriginal Controlled Health Service and Eligible Allied Health Surgical Mask EOI' and return to covid19@adelaidephn.com.au

 

How to apply to receive surgical masks from QLD PHNs

Individual PHNs have in place processes for access to PPE. Allied health practices with demonstrated need should first determine which PHN region they belong to.

A list of PHNs can be found at: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/PHN-Locator and you can search for your PHN by address.

Once you’ve identified your PHN, please refer to the list below. If your PHN is not included in this list, please use the contact details on the Department of Health website to get in touch with your PHN.

PHN General website Mask ordering process

Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Gold Coast

PHN COVID website

Online ordering process

Western Queensland PHN COVID website
No designated application process for allied health. Contact the PHN to request surgical masks.
Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN COVID website
No designated ordering process for masks. To order masks, contact the Primary Care Liaison team: practicesupport@ddwmphn.com.au
Northern Queensland PHN COVID website
Online ordering process
Brisbane North PHN COVID website
Online ordering process
Brisbane South PHN COVID website
Online ordering process

 

How to apply to receive surgical masks from WA PHNs

For mask requests, practices in Western Australia are asked to complete the COVID19 Request Form.

Practices should also familiarise themselves with the appropriate use of surgical masks.

In general, the allocation will be one box (50 surgical masks) per practice, re-orders will be permitted, however re-orders will not be accepted within five business days (Mon-Fri) of the previous request.

How to apply to receive surgical masks from NTPHN

The Northern Territory PHN advises that they have not yet received masks and do not have an ordering process in place. We advise members to contact the PHN via their website: https://www.ntphn.org.au