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Health staff call for firms here to help make protective gear

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Mercy mission: Supplies aboard the Aer Lingus flight from China. Photo: @snoopdogmoll

Mercy mission: Supplies aboard the Aer Lingus flight from China. Photo: @snoopdogmoll

Mercy mission: Supplies aboard the Aer Lingus flight from China. Photo: @snoopdogmoll

Doctors and other health staff remain fearful that they will be hostages to fortune if the HSE is overly reliant on importing vital protective equipment and clothing to safeguard them against the coronavirus.

It comes as a first major delivery of personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, goggles and face masks, is being delivered from today to hospitals, GPs and other health facilities after an Aer Lingus cargo plane arrived back in Dublin from China with the supplies yesterday afternoon.

HSE chief Paul Reid said it is the first of 10 cargo flights with the protective gear which will travel from China in the coming weeks.

Yesterday's cargo included 11 million masks, 2.4 million gowns, nine million gloves and 2.3 million goggles.

"We are already assured that the Chinese provider is currently assembling and putting together what will be our second batch, so we would see flights continuing on a regular daily basis in the coming weeks for this batch, and subsequent batches, up to the end of May and probably beyond, as it is over €200m of an order," he said.

Although health staff are relieved more supplies will be available as hundreds more patients who test positive for the coronavirus are admitted to hospital, there are fears that the stock will not be enough to see them through months of the pandemic.

They want the Government to work more with Irish companies, whose core business has been hit by the impact of the coronavirus, but would be willing to diversify to produce protective gear.

The call for more domestic supplies has also been made by Sinn Féin's health spokeswoman Louise O'Reilly, who said: "We cannot continue to leave hostages to fortune and rely on imports from other countries, especially as there are disturbing reports in recent days that some countries are hijacking supplies of PPE and equipment if delivery planes stop over at their airports."

There is also a major call for more protective equipment from the wider health service, including private nursing homes which have had a number of clusters of infection and where staff are increasingly anxious about getting infected. So far health workers account for around one in four people who have caught the virus and most have picked it up here in Ireland.

One of the 46 fatalities so far from the virus was a nurse.

Pharmacies have been issued with PPE stock in line with the recommendation from the Department of Health.

The HSE confirmed that protective clothing and equipment had also been distributed to pharmacists.

"As the most accessible of all healthcare professionals in our health service, community pharmacists have a key role in maintaining continuity of care to patients. Pharmacists are therefore frontline healthcare workers and, as such, play a key role in the national response to Covid-19," a spokesperson said.

"Accordingly, pharmacists have been provided with a limited volume of personal protection equipment and have been advised by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre guidance for the community pharmacy setting."

There were subsequent communications from the Irish Pharmacy Union and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland that it must only be used in exceptional circumstances and it is not recommended to be used when performing routine work in community settings, she added.

Mr Reid assured doctors that the standard of the supplies which arrived yesterday and additional deliveries are in line with those set out by the World Health Organisation.

The Dutch government recalled 600,000 masks due to quality standard concerns.

Irish Independent