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Frontline Healthcare Workers: The COVID-19 Doctor, Nurse and Paramedic

COVID-19 – Frontline Healthcare Workers

When I was a frontline paramedic it never occurred to me that any of us were heroes. We were just folks doing what we did, and enjoying it. PPE and infection prevention was not taken really seriously, partly because it failed so often. Now, the consequences of minor exposure to the coronavirus can be as deadly as a deep needle stick with HIV tainted blood.

Needle sticks are becoming increasingly rare due to engineered safety controls such as retractable sharps, sheathed scalpels, blunt plastic connectors, but those covert exposures to COVID-19 are harder to avoid. Face shields do not prevent eye exposure, gloves are ineffective against sharps, masks are somehow only effective on expiration for the general public but good also on inhalation for healthcare workers.

Who’s kidding who here? I was a Fit Tester back in the day. Masks are shaped to fit in a static state for a test. I know for myself at least, masks fit neither consistently nor constantly when in service. If you grimace, smile, or even twist your head there is no as-surety that there is still a reasonable seal around the mask against your skin.

Aerosols waft up under your face shield, onto your sleeve, on your forehead or sneak by your nose with each inhalation, or over your head and onto the back of your neck.

The folks doing emergency and critical care work are woefully under-protected with PPE. This should come as no surprise since PPE is the lowest level of protection available against infective agent exposure from AGMPs.

With the subtle and delayed onset of symptoms, ease of virus transfer, especially in the setting of Aerosol Generating Medical Procedures and work involving often already compromised individuals it is little wonder doctors, nurses, and paramedics have contracted, been sickened and died of COVID-19.

The International Council of Nurses reported this week that at least 260 nurses have died so far globally, and it is estimated that around 200,000 healthcare providers have been infected.

For a litany of reasons their sole source of protection provided, the coveted PPE, has failed them.  You, the COVID-19 heroes, need and deserve better, and at last that better, the higher level of protection is available. Make your bosses, union leaders and regulators know there is an affordable, effective, and more reliable option in the STAL Shield. They should not deny you the best affordable protection available. Would a paramedic drive an ambulance without seatbelts? Should a nurse have to go back to non-retractable needles or be denied lead gowns when assisting with x-ray procedures? And COVID-19 doctors, how would it be you didn’t have access to negative pressure – high volume air exchange HVAC systems in your isolation rooms?

In each of these instances, the component you wouldn’t dispense with is an engineered control – something you expect, should demand and would likely not work without. The STAL Shield sits right there with those other engineered controls, providing a level of ipac unavailable until now. It is mandated by regulation, intuitive to use, inexpensive, versatile in utility, and provides highly effective prevention by design.

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