Concrete action being taken over PPE supplies, says NI health minister

Health minister Robin Swann has said “concrete action” is being taken over Northern Ireland’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Coronavirus testing in the region is also expected to be significantly stepped up to 1,100 a day from next week.

Workers have expressed concerns over both issues to protect those working on the front line with coronavirus patients.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland director Pat Cullen earlier this week said the efforts over PPE needed to be “stepped up” and nurses were “really, really afraid every day and night”.

Guidance on the use of PPE for healthcare workers is expected to be updated within the next two days.

In a statement on Friday morning, Mr Swann said “concrete action” is being taken on Northern Ireland’s supply of PPE and its distribution across health and social care services.

“This is a very fluid situation and there is inevitably very high demand for PPE. It needs to be emphasised that we have substantial PPE in stock and it is being issued to the system, with more orders placed,” he said.

“Steps have also been taken to streamline and improve its distribution – and to ensure the independent care home and domiciliary care providers are supported.

“Ensuring the safety of all staff who are dealing with Covid-19 patients is an absolute priority. It is, of course, also essential that these products are used in line with advice.

“Demand for PPE will inevitably intensify in the days and weeks ahead.

“We are therefore taking every conceivable step to keep building up our stocks to meet this demand. It is very welcome news that key global supply chains are starting to reopen.

“We will pursue every feasible supply route, both local and international, to enhance our supplies.”

Meanwhile, preparations continue to prepare Northern Ireland for the worst.

Work is under way to establish large temporary field hospitals for coronavirus patients after modelling indicated the current health service network may not have the capacity to cope at the peak of the outbreak.

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