Use of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, is considered part of Standard Precautions which are a set of infection prevention and control (IPC) measures required by healthcare workers for all healthcare interactions.
Respiratory virus infections, including COVID-19, influenza, RSV and other respiratory viruses cause preventable morbidity and mortality in New Zealand each year. Mask wearing remains an important measure in preventing transmission of all respiratory virus infections in health and disability care settings.
To support healthcare workers with decision making on PPE selection to help prevent transmission of respiratory viruses, a range of resources and guidance has been developed. There is also guidance for returning to work for healthcare workers after COVID-19 infection or exposure.
Mask use and visitor guidance for hospitals and other health and disability care settings
This guidance has been developed to provide advice and recommendations on mask use for healthcare workers, patients and visitors of health and disability care settings. This guidance can then be used to establish policies at an institutional level in conjunction with Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) teams and local and regional governance structures.
Recommendations for mask use in health and disability care settings are based on levels of virus transmission in the community, the healthcare interaction that is occurring, the physical environment where care is provided and the individual’s risk of severe disease. Mask use should always be considered as one factor of many influencing transmission in healthcare facilities including: the clinical setting, use of standard and transmission based precautions for all patient/client/resident interactions and the ability for visitors and patients to perform hand hygiene, having clean indoor air through good ventilation, and having occupational health processes that promote staff vaccination and enable staff to stay home from work when unwell.
With the support of clinical leadership and IPC teams, Te Whatu Ora providers should use this guidance to inform their own local facility policies on mask wearing. Non-Te Whatu Ora providers are encouraged to do the same.
Respiratory risk assessment and PPE guidance for healthcare workers
Standard precautions and a respiratory risk assessment are required before every interaction, and/or every session, with a patient/client or resident by the healthcare worker. When a patient/client or resident is suspected or confirmed to have a transmissible infectious disease, Transmission-based Precautions should be followed.
PPE checklist for tasks and procedures
Healthcare workers can use this checklist to guide them on the appropriate use of PPE when undertaking a range of tasks or procedures in healthcare settings, including a person’s home.
Guidance for return to work for healthcare workers
Isolation guidance for the public recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate for at least 5 days. However, as healthcare workers have a unique role and therefore a unique responsibility when considering their return to work following COVID-19 infection or exposure, specific guidance for these workers has been developed.
The COVID-19 guidance for return to work for healthcare workers provides advice for health sector clinical leaders and managers on managing the return to work of healthcare workers who have been infected with, or exposed to, COVID-19, as well as those who have acute respiratory symptoms but have tested negative for COVID-19.
Posters encouraging mask wearing in hospitals and other health and disability care settings are available for download from the Unite Against COVID-19 Resource Toolkit.
Face mask album – Unite against COVID-19 Resource Toolkit.
Providers are encouraged to display these posters around their premises.
Further detailed advice on the use of personal protective equipment in health care: