What every Anaesthetist should know about N95 masks – fit testing must be a regular occurrence
An article published by the ABC yesterday, shone a light on one of the concerns healthcare workers have about N95 disposable masks being used on the frontline of the pandemic. While the masks provide adequate protection if properly fitted, many healthcare workers are not passing fit tests, leaving them exposed to airborne pathogens. A video in the article shows health reporter Sophie Scott failing an N95 fit test several times. This demonstrates how not all N95 masks fit everyone. Adding to the concern is the fact that a national survey of doctors has revealed fit testing of masks is not happening across many Australian health workplaces.
The ABC article says that for the last five months, one of Melbourne’s senior anaesthetists, who asked to remain anonymous, has carried out this procedure on dozens of patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19.
As the process can cause tiny particles from the patient’s throat to spray into the air, she has been wearing an N95 face mask, which she believed would stop her from breathing in coronavirus.
Last week, when she had a test to see if the mask was a proper fit, she discovered it had not been protecting her after all.
“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve actually exposed myself unwittingly,'” she said.