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The distribution of FFP2 respirator masks to healthcare sites declined significantly from a high of 3.778 million in February 2021 to a low of 0.326 million in July.
According to data released by the HSE to the Medical Independent (MI), the number of distributed FFP2 masks began rising again in August (0.554 million), September (0.705 million), and October (1.043 million).
In January 2021, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reported to members that it had reached a “formal agreement with the HSE that the FFP2 mask (a higher standard of mask, offering more protection than surgical masks) could be used in all healthcare settings. This was confirmed at national level and we are seeking clear documents to issue to the health system on this.”
According to current HSE guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE), healthcare workers “should have access to a well-fitted respirator mask (FFP2) and eye protection when in contact with possible or confirmed Covid-19 cases and Covid-19 contacts”.
Prior to the change in HSE guidance in early 2021, respirator masks were advised only for healthcare professionals involved in a defined set of aerosol-generating procedures.
As previously reported by MI, a number of specialists in occupational medicine have been advocating for more widespread use of fitted respirator masks in the health service. In the last edition of MI, Dean of the RCPI Faculty of Occupational Medicine, Dr Robert Ryan, confirmed that specialists had raised concerns with the Faculty in regard to control measures in healthcare and he was conveying their feedback to “stakeholders”.
The HSE has no plans to change the guidance on PPE “as it reflects current evidence”, according to a spokesperson.