CORONAVIRUS, FACE MASKS

The Hon. J.S.L. DAWKINS: My question is directed to the Minister for Health and Wellbeing. Will the minister update the council regarding personal protective equipment in South Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. It has now been 171 days since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in South Australia. Last week marked yet another important milestone in the South Australian response to the pandemic with the first locally produced D95+ respirator masks being fit tested to local health workers.

The Marshall Liberal government has had a strong focus on securing PPE during the pandemic to help protect our front-line health workers and to support them as they give quality care to South Australians who need it. As members would remember, in March, April and May there were severe global shortages of PPE. As a government we worked closely with the commonwealth and other jurisdictions to overcome these challenges and, while supplies have been tight, we have not experienced the interrupted supplies seen in some overseas jurisdictions.

A key part of our effort was directed towards domestic production of PPE, in particular, masks. A number of South Australian companies began producing a range of products necessary during the pandemic, such as hand sanitiser, but in relation to masks I need to single out Detmold, which is producing high-quality masks for our front-line staff.

South Australia is the only state that has mandatory requirements for healthcare workers to be fit tested to P2/N95 masks. Staff are also trained in how to put on and remove the mask safely and perform what is called a 'fit check' each time the respirator is worn. This additional step is another example of the high standard South Australia has applied as we work to protect the state from the pandemic.

If the mask is not correctly fitted then it will not seal to the skin and this may allow air to flow underneath the seal, reducing the level of protection afforded. This additional step helps to ensure that our clinicians are kept as safe as possible and, together with the supply of PPE that has been secured, it is fundamental to our strategy in continuing to provide quality health services and to continue elective surgery following its ramp down during the earlier first stage of the pandemic.

We are seeing across the border now how quickly this virus can spread through a community. South Australia can be proud of its record so far but there is absolutely no room for complacency. The continued production, provision and fit testing of these masks is just one aspect of this government's strong plan to continue to protect the state from the virus that is still spreading at record speed through the world.


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