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Hi, I'm Alison McMillan, Commonwealth Chief Nursing and Midwifery officer. 

I know many of you have questions about how you should protect yourself and your clients against COVID-19. 

This is particularly important for allied health professionals who need to provide hands on care or who have close physical contact with clients or patients. 

But before I talk to you about when and how you should wear personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, there are other factors you should consider first to minimise the risk. 

Firstly, do you need to provide close or hands-on care? 

Where it is clinically appropriate, some services can be provided remotely via telehealth. 

Telehealth is clearly an option for many allied health professionals, including psychologists, social workers and genetic counsellors. 

Others, like physiotherapists and speech pathologists, should consider what services can be provided by telehealth. 

You may need to work with your patients and their carers or family in adopting these new approaches. 

Medicare, NDIS and Veteran's Affairs and private health insurers have increased the scope of their telehealth rebates. 

It is a complex area, so please contact the relevant organisations to clarify the requirements for patients claiming rebates.

If close physical contact is required you need to consider whether the treatment is clinically necessary, whether it could be delayed, and whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Consider delaying the procedure unless it's required to prevent significant deterioration and or improve function. 

Whether you as the clinician are at an elevated risk of COVID-19 because of medical issues, in this situation you may need to refer the patient to a colleague. 

If you decide to go ahead with closer hands on treatment, the amplification of good hygiene is critical in preventing the transmission of COVID-19. 

Firstly, do not go to work if you were unwell, even if your symptoms are mild.

Hand washing using alcohol based sanitiser before and after any client contact is critical. 

Do not touch your face, however tempting it might be. 

Remember, regular cleaning and disinfecting of the work environment is also important. 

The physical distancing of 1.5 metres should be maintained wherever possible. 

All of these things will help prevent the transmission of the disease. 

There are occasions where you may need to wear PPE, and standard precautions should always apply in the management of infection prevention and control. 

PPE must be worn whenever you are treating someone with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, where you have close physical contact with the patient.

As you'll be aware, PPE is important, but at the moment, scarce resource, but more supplies are becoming available

At this time we are encouraging all health care workers to only use PPE where it's indicated. 

It's also likely that your clients may have some concerns and it's going to be important that you reassure them that you are following appropriate hygiene practices and you are well. 

People with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be cared for in isolation. 

If there's a situation where you need to provide clinical care to a confirmed or suspected case, this might be in a home in aged care or a hospital facility. 

The relevant facility should be able to provide PPE. However, any allied health professional, delivering care to a suspect case at home will need to source their own PPE through their employer, professional associations or through some other source. 

When providing care, you will need the following: gown, mask, protective eye wear and gloves. 

PPE is only effective if you put it on and remove it properly, so before putting on any PPE, ensure your lower arms are free of clothing and that you wash your hands thoroughly or use an alcohol based sanitiser. 

First, put on your gown.

Fully cover your torso from neck to knee, arms to the end of the wrists and wrap around the back, fasten at the neck and the waist.

Next, you put on a surgical mask with a surgical mask, the white side is towards your face. 

Secure the ties behind your head and neck or use the elastic around your ears. 

Fit the flexible band on the bridge of your nose and make sure the mask fits snugly under your chin. 

As an aside, a P2 respirator is only used for certain high-risk procedures, particularly those aerosol generating procedures which are carried out predominantly by speech pathologists and physiotherapists. 

They should use P2 respirators if they are conducting manual or device assisted techniques to induce coughing or expectoration of sputum. 

P2 masks need to be fitted to the face to achieve a full seal and ensure effective protection. 

Eye protection comes next. Safety glasses are easy to put on, splash shields or goggles should be placed on your face and eyes and adjusted to fit. 

Finally, you need to put on gloves. When you put on gloves, extend them to cover the wrists of the gown.

After treating a care recipient, start to remove PPE while you're still in the room.

When removing gloves, the principles are demonstrated here. 

Do not let the outside of the gloves touch your exposed skin. 

Once removed, discard the gloves immediately into a waste container and hygiene your hands

To remove the gown, unfasten the gown ties. 

Take care that the sleeves do not contact your body when reaching for the ties. 

Pull the gown away from your neck and shoulders. Make sure you only touch the inside of the gown. 

Turn the gown inside out. Then fold or roll into a bundle and discard in a waste container and hygiene your hands. 

Then step out of the room. 

Outside of the room, remove protective glasses by holding the arms. 

Once removed clean reusable equipment or discard disposable items in a waste container and hygiene your hands.

To remove the mask, undo the bottom ties or elastics, then grasp the top ones. 

Do not touch the front of the mask. 

Discard immediately into a waste container. 

Immediately after removing all PPE, hygiene your hands again using soap and water or an alcohol based sanitiser.

PPE can safely be removed in other orders, but always gloves first and mask last.

To protect yourself you need to avoid contaminating your clothing, skin, eyes, nose or mouth when taking off used PPE, so always make sure not to touch the front of any items.

If you have any questions about when and how to wear PPE, you will find more information on the Australian Government Health website 

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your important work you're doing that you're providing an essential service by keeping people well and the community out of hospital and you contribute to their quality of life. 

If we all continue to work together, we can provide safe, quality health care and reduce the spread of COVID-19 and so save lives in Australia. 

And please, finally, always wash your hands. 

Thank you.

Video type: 

Watch this video to find out how and when to wear personal protective equipment (PPE).