An investigation is underway to trace every health care worker in Northern Ireland fitted with Covid-19 respiratory masks by one company.
The move comes after a staff member uncovered a serious error in the fitting of the masks which are intended to protect workers from the risk of infection.
Each of the five health care trusts in Northern Ireland is affected by the review, including staff in hospitals, GP surgeries and some nursing and care homes.
A Serious Adverse Incident review has been set up by the Public Health Agency on the advice of the Department of Health.
Affected staff will be offered counselling, a refit of their masks and where necessary, a test for Covd-19.
Rodney Morton, Northern Ireland’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Professionals in the Public Health Agency, described the situation as “concerning”.
He said: “We have to have confidence in the PPE and the fitting of that PPE. The respiratory masks we’re talking about are those used in high risk, high aerosol areas and a proper fit is crucial.
“The situation was uncovered when a member of staff queried the report on the fitting of her mask and it was investigated.”
The so-called ‘fit test’ for the respiratory masks has seven components which must all be met before the mask is deemed to meet the UK standard.
However the test carried out by one of the contractors in Northern Ireland recorded an average score out of seven but still passed the fit as acceptable even if it dropped below the 100% mark.
It is yet unclear how many health care workers could be affected but the number is described as “significant”.
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Author: Jilly Beattie