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HSE says gown shortage here has 'been addressed' as UK doctors and nurses told to work without them

Last weekend, the HSE said there was a significant issue with a shortage of gowns for healthcare staff.

Chief Clinical Officer HSE, Dr. Colm Henry.
Chief Clinical Officer HSE, Dr. Colm Henry.
Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

THE HSE HAS said that the a shortage of gowns for healthcare staff has “been addressed” but that the personal protective equipment (PPE) that has been secured is “hard fought and hard secured”.

The comments were made after doctors and nurses in the UK were told to work without full-length gowns and to reuse items due to an expected shortage of the garments. 

Public Health England (PHE) reversed its guidance this evening which stipulated long-sleeved disposable fluid repellent gowns should be worn when treating Covid-19 patients.

If the gowns are not available, UK clinical staff are now advised to wear “disposable, non-fluid repellent gowns or coveralls” or “washable surgical gowns”. 

Last weekend, HSE CEO Paul Reid said there was a significant issue with a shortage of gowns for healthcare staff in Ireland. 

Speaking this evening, chief clinical officer Dr. Colm Henry said that the HSE was “in a very perilous state” due to a lack of supply of gowns but that the situation has been resolved for now. 

“We were in a very perilous state over the weekend, not because we’d run out but because the supply lines coming in weren’t meeting their daily demands. And I’m happy to say that’s been addressed now this week with the arrival of multiple plane loads which are very heavy on those long sleeve gowns and the coveralls,” he said, 

Henry added, however, that staff still need to be aware of the correct usage of the garments: 

That said it’s important and we’re reminding all our stuff that all those elements of PPE are hard fought for hard secured, and we want to protect them in the right place, so the right staff use those PPEs to protect themselves and protect patients and prevent dissemination of the virus.  

Henry added that there are “some concerns” over a certain type of respiratory mask but that a factory in Kilmallock is producing some 150,000 per week and that they are also part of “enormous batches” from China. 

Despite this he said there is “unprecedented demand” for PPE, not just in hospital settings but also in community settings.  

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Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, general secretary of the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation Phil Ni Sheaghdha said that, while the supply of PPE has improved in “parts of the country”, it remains “a constant, constant problem”. 

“Particularly with face masks and eye goggles,” Ni Sheaghdha said.

Because as what we know about this virus, the manner in which it enters the body is through your eyes, your mouth, your nose, your mucous membrane. So it’s imperative that those protections are available all of the time.

“We have been constantly asking the HSE to change their policy on the wearing of face masks, because we don’t know who’s positive and therefore we have to assume and err on the side of caution, and at the very minimum provide face masks for healthcare workers to wear when they’re interacting with patients when the status of a patient is unknown.”

- With reporting by Press Association 

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Rónán Duffy

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