Coronavirus: 'Serious incident review' into improper mask tests
Jun. 24, 2020
Masks protecting healthcare staff against coronavirus had not been properly tested, Northern Ireland's Public Health Agency (PHA) has said.
A "serious adverse incident review" will be carried out by the PHA after it emerged an independent contractor did not follow "UK fitting requirements".
Work is underway to see if any staff who wore masks that were not fitted correctly contracted Covid-19.
The PHA has said risk to staff is "likely to be low".
Rodney Morton, who is the PHA's Director of Nursing, said the independent contractor used a "weighted approach" as opposed to a "100% pass rate" for testing the masks.
"This fell below the UK requirement," Mr Morton said.
"The UK standard is you have to pass 100% in the fit test, which has seven elements," he explained.
Image copyright PAcemaker Image caption The mask fitting test used by the independent contractor was one "not normally used in Northern Ireland".
"Some staff had received a pass rate when they had not passed the fit test score," he added.
In a statement, The Public Health Agency said that the testing procedure used by the contractors was one "not normally used in Northern Ireland".
It said this "should have been readjusted to the UK fit-testing requirements designed to prevent leaks".
Mr Morton said that testing to discover if any healthcare staff have contacted coronavirus because of this is a "work in progress".
"Some of the trusts have identified staff who have not been fitted correctly and we know some of those staff have received a positive diagnosis of coronavirus," he said.
"We expect to be receiving those results over the course of next week, he said.
However, he stressed that "this does not necessarily mean causality".
"We are taking this very seriously and that is why a serious incident review will be conducted," Mr Morton said.
Mr Morton said the independent contractor is still working within the health sector, but "has been actively working with us to identify critical issues".
Mr Morton said "additional measures have been put in place to ensure every single fit-testing certificate has been reviewed across all Health and Social Care Trusts.
In a statement, the Public Health Agency said they recognised that the issues raised "may cause some concern" and "we very much regret that".
"The Health and Social Care system is now carrying out a validation and audit exercise of all fit-tests conducted by this independent contractor.
"We would again stress that these checks are being taken as a precautionary step to reassure staff that the masks are being fitted to the highest safety standards".
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