Patients required to wear surgical masks

Infection prevention and control has always been vitally important at ACT health facilities.

Infection prevention and control has always been vitally important at ACT health facilities.

Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, Senior Specialist in Infectious Diseases at Canberra Health Services, said that the combination of staff wearing a properly fitted N95 or P2 mask when interacting with patients wearing surgical masks is effective in preventing possible transmission of COVID-19.

“The evidence is clear that surgical masks provided significant protection from COVID-19 infection for staff and other patients during past exposures at our health facilities. Surgical masks have performed better than cloth masks in overseas studies,” Dr Senanayake said.

Surgical masks protect the wearer from contact with droplets and sprays that may contain germs. They also filter out large particles in the air when the wearer breathes in.

“If patients arrive with their own masks, including an N95 or P2, staff have no way of knowing if they have changed it recently or if it is clean, both of which affect how well they work. Also, a badly fitting N95 mask is not as effective. There are many types of N95 masks and many face shapes, so the only way to determine if a N95 mask fits properly is through a formal process called ‘fit testing’ which many healthcare workers have undergone.”

“Staff who are directly engaging with patients will continue wearing N95 or P2 masks as they have regular close and personal interactions with multiple patients, whereas patients don’t. They are trained on how to properly fit their mask and they use other PPE practices on shift.”

Proper use of surgical masks also affects how well they protect you. Patients should follow these steps:

  • Wash or sanitise hands before and after putting on a mask
  • Place mask over mouth and nose and chin
  • Tie it behind your head or use ear loops
  • Don't touch mask while wearing it
  • If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitise your hands
  • If your mask becomes wet or dirty, switch to a clean one
  • Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face
  • Change your mask regularly.
Page last updated on: 14 Jan 2022