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.
Seasonal colds, influenza and COVID-19 are likely to continue to have a combined impact on the health care system. Mask wearing continues to be recommended for all healthcare workers in all healthcare settings and remains an important measure in preventing transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, in health and disability care settings.
To support healthcare workers with decision making on personal protective equipment selection to help prevent transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, 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: August - November 2023
This guidance has been developed based on current transmission rates of COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses in New Zealand. It provides the minimum recommendations for mask use for all employees, volunteers and contractors of healthcare facilities, and patients/clients and visitors of healthcare settings. Te Whatu Ora providers are recommended to follow this guidance and non-Te Whatu Ora providers are encouraged to do the same.
Mask use by healthcare workers is one of a number of IPC measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases in healthcare. These include adhering to standard and transmission-based precautions for all patient/client and resident care, undertaking a risk assessment for respiratory infections, undertaking a risk assessment for respiratory infections, having clean indoor air through good ventilation, access to testing, having occupational health processes that promote staff vaccination and enable staff to stay home from work when unwell. These are all important measures that can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases in healthcare.
Mask use by visitors to healthcare settings is recommended. For public guidance on masks see Wearing a face mask | Unite against COVID-19.
With the support of clinical leadership and IPC teams, Te Whatu Ora and non-Te Whatu Ora providers can use this mask guidance to develop their own local facility procedures on mask wearing for visitors i.e. according to where they would like visitors to their facility to wear masks to protect those at higher risk. Factors such as patient vulnerability, environmental considerations (e.g. crowding, ventilation and local epidemiology) should be taken into consideration.
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: