Use of surgical masks

Surgical masks are now required indoors for all employees, ambulatory patients and visitors.

Key messages

Please read the following information carefully as it is critical in times of uncertainty to act on credible information. Our Medical Director Infection Prevention, Associate Professor Rhonda Stuart, outlines the facts for you below:

  • Surgical masks protect health care workers against droplet contamination.
  • The use of masks is part of a comprehensive package of the prevention and control measures that can limit the spread of certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19.
  • A mask alone cannot protect you from COVID-19. It must be combined with other measures, including maintaining at least 1.5-meters distance from each other and performing hand hygiene frequently.
  • It is critical that you complete your PPE training (online and face-to-face) and that you know how to don and doff a surgical mask.
  • Home-made or personal masks should not be worn by employees while at Monash Health
  • If caring for a confirmed COVID positive patient, mask removal is as per our normal donning and doffing procedures (i.e. remove and discard mask after leaving the COVID-positive room)
  • Monash Health’s PPE Tiers have been updated to align with DHHS guidance in order to make it easier for employees who work across multiple health services. Read more about PPE Tiers.
  • Reminder: Aerosol generating procedures require Tier 3 PPE. Tier 3 PPE requires the use of an N95 mask.

Surgical Masks – Frequently asked questions

Masks are mandatory for all Monash Health employees at work.

Refer to Masks at Monash Health for general information about mask use at work.

Refer to the Personal Protective Equipment Compulsory standards to determine the type of mask you should be wearing in different scenarios.

Why can’t I have my nose uncovered when wearing a surgical mask?

Droplets are transmitted through your nose and mouth – so to be effective, a mask must cover your nose and mouth at all times.

How long can I use a surgical mask for?

Masks can be worn for up to 4 hours. Masks also need to be changed at meal breaks or after going to the toilet and whenever wet or contaminated.

How do I dispose of my used mask?

Dispose of used masks in the normal waste bin unless they are visibly soiled or have been used as a component of Tier 2 or 3 PPE.

If caring for a confirmed COVID-positive patient, mask removal is as per our normal donning and doffing procedures (i.e. remove and discard the mask after leaving the COVID-positive room).

What if my mask is damaged?

If your mask is damaged, do not use it – or if it is already on, remove it immediately and dispose of it.

How do I adjust my mask?

If you need to readjust your mask, do it from the rear only. Avoid touching your mask while wearing, and if you do touch it perform hand hygiene afterwards.

Who can help me check my fitted mask is correct?

All Monash Health clinical employees have been trained on the application and removal of PPE, and this includes masks. If you have not completed your PPE training, please do so immediately.

What if masks are not available?

We will ensure masks are available in all required locations to keep you safe.

Can I wear the one mask when I am doing my ward rounds in different wards?

Yes.

If I am looking after multiple patients, do I leave the same mask on as I move between each patient?

Yes.

Close up photograph of an ear saver strap.

Can I reuse my ear saver?

Yes, with the use of Clinell wipes on application and on removal, but only for a single shift/day.

How do I clean my ear saver?

Clinell wipes on each application and on removal. Please note that ear savers should only be used for single-day use.

Where do I store my ear saver?

Ear Saver Straps must be disposed of at the end of the shift/day as they are single-day use only.

Do I need to shave my beard off?

If you have a lot of facial hair, you may not be able to use a mask properly and will put yourself at increased risk.

When do I take off the mask at the end of the day?

At the end of your shift discard your used surgical mask in the normal waste bin unless they are visibly soiled or have been used as a component of tier 2 or 3 PPE. Then perform hand hygiene. Then don your personal face covering before leaving the site.

Can I wear the one mask when I am doing my ward rounds in different wards?

Yes.

If I am looking after multiple patients, do I leave the same mask on as I move between each patient?

Yes.

N95 respirators/masks – Frequently asked questions

These FAQs are designed to answer some of the questions you may have regarding the use of N95 masks.

Surgical masks are being substituted for N95 masks in some areas of the health service seeing high numbers of suspected or confirmed COVID patients. This substitution applies only to staff with direct patient contact (not admin staff): Emergency Departments, Intensive Care Units, COVID wards/zones, SCOVID wards.

How do I apply the mask?

It is essential you fit the mask correctly. Please follow these step-by-step instructions.

How do I check the mask is on correctly?

After applying the mask, ensure you have performed a seal check. Inhale and the mask should collapse. Exhale and check for leakage around your face. You must replace the mask if it becomes hard to breathe through or if the mask no longer conforms to the face or loses its shape.

How long can I wear my N95 mask?

The mask can be worn for up to four hours. You must remove the mask after four hours, and when going on meal breaks.

Do I need to wear an N95 mask if visiting patients in a high-risk area?

Yes, apply N95 mask on entry to high risk area. You do not need to remove the N95 when leaving the area, the mask can remain insitu for up to 4 hours.

Do I need to take the mask off outside of patient care areas?

No – the mask can stay on for up to 4 hours

Do I need to take the mask off before caring for patients who are not isolated for COVID-19?

No – the mask can stay on for up to 4 hours unless soiled, wet or you need to remove for a meal break

If I take the mask off, can I put it back on?

No. If you take your mask off, you must not re-use it. Please ensure it is disposed of correctly.

What if I touch the mask while wearing it?

The mask can continue to be worn, but you must practice correct hand hygiene immediately.

What if the mask gets soiled or wet?

Please remove the mask if it soiled or wet (e.g. blood or bodily fluids), dispose of it correctly, practice correct hand hygiene and follow the relevant precautions required.

Do I need to swap back to a surgical mask after I’ve put on an N95?

No. You can continue to wear the N95.

Where do I get a mask?

The relevant Director of Clinical Operations will continue to distribute the N95 masks, where appropriate.

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