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For generations, healthcare professionals and patients have relied on personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield them from infectious diseases. In Australia, the tradition of using PPE in healthcare began in the early 1900s in response to outbreaks of diseases like tuberculosis and bubonic plague. At that time, healthcare workers would resort to essential PPE like surgical masks and gloves to protect themselves.

Over time, the types of PPE utilised in healthcare broadened to encompass a diverse range of protective gear, including gowns, face shields and eye protection. During the 1980s and 1990s, the use of PPE became more common in Australia with the rise of new and more hazardous infectious diseases like HIV and hepatitis C.

But how effective is PPE for healthcare workers? Let’s find out.

What Is PPE And Why Is It Essential In Healthcare?

Healthcare workers and patients need protection from infectious diseases, and PPE provides that defence. These tools act as a barrier and prevent the spread of harmful substances, making them a crucial part of controlling disease transmission. During the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE has become especially significant in Australia, where healthcare workers face high exposure risk to the virus.

To reduce exposure, the use of PPE is now mandatory in various healthcare settings like hospitals, aged care facilities and community health clinics. It includes items like surgical masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection that must be handled and disposed of properly to maximise their effectiveness.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted PPE’s vital role in allowing healthcare workers to care for patients whilst reducing their exposure risk. By protecting healthcare workers and limiting the spread of the virus, PPE has become a critical factor in maintaining the health of both patients and the broader community.

So how effective is PPE for healthcare workers? It depends on several factors, including the type of PPE used, how it is used and the specific infectious disease being prevented. For example, masks can be very effective in preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 when used properly, but they may be less effective in preventing the spread of other types of infectious diseases.

It is important to note that PPE should always be used in conjunction with other infection control measures, such as hand hygiene, social distancing, and proper cleaning and disinfection. Healthcare workers should also receive proper training on how to use PPE correctly to maximise its effectiveness.

The Challenges Of PPE During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has put a massive burden on the global supplies of PPE, including in Australia. PPE is vital in protecting individuals like healthcare professionals, essential workers, and the public from getting infected with the virus. The difficulties in obtaining PPE during pandemics can be attributed to scarcity, high prices and inadequate supplies.

  1. Shortage
The sudden increase in demand for PPE caused supply chains to fail, resulting in shortages across Australia. This became a significant issue as healthcare workers and personnel struggled to obtain essential items like a surgical mask, gloves and gown, putting them in danger of being infected with the virus.

  1. Cost
The high demand for PPE also led to inflated prices. This made it challenging for healthcare organisations, small businesses and individuals to afford the equipment. This financial strain severely affected the healthcare system, particularly during a pandemic when PPE is vital.

  1. Inadequate PPE 
The effectiveness and quality of PPE are crucial in ensuring the safety of those who use it. However, during the pandemic, some PPE supplies may not meet the necessary standards, which could put users at risk. It includes improperly fitting a surgical mask, non-disposable gloves and inadequate gowns.

Innovations In PPE

Now that you know how effective PPE is for healthcare workers, let us look into the recent innovations for this tool. 

  1. Lightweight materials
One of the most remarkable advancements in PPE is the integration of lighter materials, allowing workers to don the gear for extended periods without feeling exhausted. This also enhances their overall comfort and safety.

  1. Improved breathability
Improved ventilation helps minimise the risk of heat stress and other related health issues, especially in industries where workers must wear protective clothing for prolonged hours.

  1. Enhanced visibility
PPE with high-visibility features, like reflective elements and bright colours, have become widely prevalent in recent times. These features make workers more noticeable in low-light conditions, thereby reducing the chances of accidents and mishaps.

The Future Of PPE In Healthcare

PPE has been a vital part of healthcare for a long time. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, its demand and significance have surged globally, particularly in Australia. With this, the future of PPE in healthcare is bright with creation of new and innovative products.

One of the significant advancements in PPE is the creation of reusable and environmentally friendly gear. With the shortage of PPE worldwide, there’s an urgent need for sustainable alternatives. Hence, Australian firms are developing reusable face masks, gowns and shields made of materials that can easily be cleaned and sterilised for repeated use. This minimises waste from disposable PPE and conserves resources whilst reducing costs.

Another area of focus for the future of PPE in healthcare is the development of ‘smart’ PPE. With technology integration, smart PPE can have sensors and tracking devices that monitor usage and the environment to provide real-time data. This information can improve supply chain management and ensure the safety of healthcare workers.

Dexcon | Leading Medical Device and PPE Supplier in Australia

Dexcon, a rapidly expanding company in the PPE and medical device import-export sector in Australia, is at the forefront of delivering fair and budget-friendly solutions for all stakeholders. Whether you’re a government body, company, wholesaler or individual, we offer comprehensive procurement and execution services that guarantee the smooth transport of crucial products to and from Australia. Contact us for your PPE and medical device needs.