| 18.3°C Belfast

'We are petrified, don't force Northern Ireland health staff to reuse PPE', pleads nurse

Close

Health staff put on their PPE masks, gloves and gowns in Belfast (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

Health staff put on their PPE masks, gloves and gowns in Belfast (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

PA

Health staff put on their PPE masks, gloves and gowns in Belfast (Justin Kernoghan/PA)

A Northern Ireland nurse has spoken of the fear among health care staff that they may be asked to reuse Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

She said her work on the frontline in the battle against the virus left her and her family feeling as if they were regarded as “lepers”. While on concerns around PPE, she said it felt like she was “cannon fodder”.

It comes after Public Health England (PHE) changed its guidance to recommend staff reuse PPE during shortages "when it is safe to do so".

The recommendation has not been implemented in Northern Ireland and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has written to Health Minister Robin Swann to seek clarity over the issue.

RCN NI director Pat Cullen said that Mr Swann responded promptly but that his response "did not go far enough".

A Department of Health statement said health bodies would be consulted if any decision was taken to change the guidance.

"This guidance on the reuse of PPE is not implemented in NI at this point. And if or when it might be required, the department will consider this, taking account of the national and scientific evidence and will provide further advice at the appropriate time," the statement read.

"Such consideration will be undertaken if required, and only following full engagement and in consultation with professional bodies and trade union representative organisations."

We're as petrified as everyone else in the general public, we have families too, we don't want to be bringing this home to our families or, more importantly, giving this to other sick patients. Senior nurse Denise Kelly

Senior nurse Denise Kelly spoke to BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme on Monday morning after she finished her night shift.

She said that staff were "absolutely terrified" by the Public Health England guidelines to reuse PPE, though confirmed that she hadn't been asked to reuse PPE, nor had any of her colleagues.

"I don't know what's coming in the next couple of days, but I just hope we can get that surety from our ministers that we are not going to be put in that position," Mrs Kelly said.

"At the end of the day I'm a human being, we're as petrified as everyone else in the general public, we have families too, we don't want to be bringing this home to our families or, more importantly, giving this to other sick patients.

"We need to feel comfortable when we go into work, I can't emphasize this enough, please don't put us in this position."

Mrs Kelly said her 12-year-old daughter Ciara had been called 'coronavirus' because of her mum's job as a nurse.

"We're being viewed nearly as lepers, not just as frontline workers. Our children too, our families, it's causing a lot of tensions," she said.

"There's a fear of people distancing away from us or you work in the hospital, you're with those patients, you may give something to us. That has massive social and psychological implications for us too.

"I don't think people can underestimate the effect. We're out there saving lives, we're trying to do our best for the public and that perception is being a leper and to an extent, when we talk about PPE, cannon fodder."

Close

First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye)

First Minister Arlene Foster told Good Morning Ulster that advising the reuse of PPE would not be introduced in Northern Ireland.

"Our nurses and our health care workers need to have that clarity," she said.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said the reuse of PPE would "never be acceptable".

She said that the Executive was constantly working to procure more PPE from a range of sources, including local businesses, the rest of the UK and China.

Belfast Telegraph