Updated guidelines on use of masks for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases

Updated guidelines on use of masks for suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases

11 August, 2020

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently updated its COVID-19 infection control guidelines (8 August) and PPE guidelines (6 August).   

All general practice staff must wear a level 1 or type 1 surgical mask (at a minimum) while at work. Cloth masks should only be worn to and from work.   

Staff who are directly involved in treating patients must also wear eye protection.  

For limited contact, for a short duration, in a controlled environment with a person who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, the following must be worn:   

  • single-use face mask (surgical mask level 2 or 3) 

  • eye protection  

  • long-sleeved gown (level 2,3 or 4) 

  • gloves (non-sterile) 

P2/N95 masks are to be used when suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are cohorted and there is risk of unplanned aerosol generating behaviours.    

Physical distancing must be applied in the workplace with all direct interactions conducted at a distance.  Consider staggering break times to limit levels of staff congregation.  Criteria for extended use of PPE is detailed in the infection prevention and control guideline.   

Supply of PPE from EMPHN  

  • General practices which are unable to access commercial supplies of PPE, can submit requests via the EMPHN website

  • PHNs have been provided TGA approved level 1 surgical masks from the National Medical Stockpile to date, and in future will receive level 2 surgical masks from the National Medical Stockpile in alignment with DHHS guidelines.  

  • Until that time, only level 1 surgical masks are available. 

  • In addition, EMPHN can also provide P2/N95 respirator masks for general practices conducting COVID-19 assessment and/or testing. 

  • EMPHN is expecting a limited supply of goggles from the National Medical Stockpile  

  • As soon as EMPHN receives the stock we will take requests for level 2 surgical masks and goggles via our website. 

  • We will keep you informed through the COVID-19 updates of distribution guidance and availability of goggles and level 2 surgical masks. Register for updates via comms@emphn.org.au   

What you can do

In the meantime, health workers that are testing for or seeing confirmed or suspected COVID-19 positive patients should use their own supply of level 2 or 3 surgical masks or P2/N95 respirator masks.

If your practice is unable to test at this time, patients can be referred to alternative testing centres including the following respiratory clinics in our area.