Nurses are being forced to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) to avoid catching Covid-19 while on shift, a whistleblower has told STV News.
The healthcare worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, told of the risk staff are being put in as there is not enough equipment to go around.
The nurse says concerns have been raised to managers and the union but they are not being addressed.
Here is a full transcript of the nurse’s concerns, as told to reporter Louise Scott:
“You go from that initial fear and then at some points it’s just really heart breaking to see what’s happening. I was horrified that when I walked on shift the nurse coming off shift was handing me their used gown and the visor.
“I was told by the nurse giving me the PPE this had been happening for the past three days as they had no stock. So, I was wearing a surgical gown that was three days old and had been worn by something like four people before me. The visors that we are re-using are being cleaned. They have now been cleaned so much that they are starting to discolour.
“It’s anxiety provoking. It’s worrying when you speak with other colleagues on the ward and we have this general acceptance that we are likely to become infected with this virus.
“That’s not normal to think like that.
“The risk becomes greater the less protected you are and if you’re sharing PPE and you don’t have the full PPE available, that risk of infection significantly increases. All these risks are increased significantly because you are re-using contaminated equipment.”
It’s not frustrating, it’s crushing. It is absolutely crushing.Whistleblower
“Among the managers there is definitely a lack of acknowledgment of the problems we’re facing. What I have been informed, and I have email proof of this, is that there is no problem on that ward and that there is ample PPE which we know not to be the case.
“[As nurses] we tend to shut-up-and-put-up with whatever is there rather than speak out. So, you have a culture that exists within nursing where we tend not to complain and things have to be at the extreme level before we do complain.
“Because although the health board operates a no-blame culture, we as nurses still are fearful of being blamed, being treated differently if we do speak out. I’ll be quite clear that I have witnessed nurses walk off the ward I’m working on.
You come home and you’re thinking ‘am I going to infect my family, am I going to give it to my wife, am I going to give it to my kids’.Whistleblower
“[When we hear the government say supplies are fine] it’s not frustrating, it’s crushing. It is absolutely crushing. We feel we are being lied to. We feel we do not have a voice. It’s like standing in a forest shouting and no one can hear you because there is no one there to hear you.
“You come home and you’re thinking ‘am I going to infect my family, am I going to give it to my wife, am I going to give it to my kids. When I go to the shop am I going to give it to the person that’s checking my messages out?’ The anxiety just does not stop.”
“The ward that I’ve been working on we’ve been very lucky. We had a nurse that had been deployed from another area and they were aware that in that area that they had PPE available. That nurse phoned their manager one evening, explained the situation and that nurse’s manager contacted their (original) place of work and arranged for staff in that area to bring over gowns, visors, hair protection, foot protection, masks, alcogel for cleaning your hands because we were running low on that.
“You have a Covid-19 ward so you know that this equipment is required, but there’s a service sitting in the same area that had this that was able to help us out. I don’t understand why, whoever was in charge of coordinating the resources for the hospital that day/night/weekend couldn’t get that done.
“We have no guidelines for disinfecting single use PPE for re-use. So what we’ve been cleaning PPE with is alcohol hand sanitizer on to paper towels and we’ve been using that to clean the visors. The gowns are pretty difficult to clean.
“We were really lucky, we got a couple of boxes of gowns (on the last shift from the other area) so we didn’t have to worry about reusing the gown. I don’t know if that’s still going to be the same when we go back.
“I think we’re just going to have to use something to wipe the gown down like an alcohol wipe.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to the quotes by saying: “I would remind any health care worker, we have set up a dedicated email address to email in if they feel they don’t have the PPE they need or have concerns and we’ll respond urgently.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman added that she is already aware of the issue of gowns.
She points out that the gowns are “satisfactory in certain clinical situations” but have been issued in other situations where they are not right for that purpose.
NHSGGC has been contacted for comment.