Recently the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a study on the use of PPE equipment in frontline staff in China during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The study found that the use of ‘adequate’ PPE equipment is effective in shielding healthcare workers from infection when dealing with Covid-19 patients.
These findings, along with an increasing number of claims against hospitals and healthcare facilities worldwide points to a larger trend in healthcare-related litigation, that could potentially explode in the next few months.
The issue is ambiguity in terms of what constitutes ‘adequate’ PPE. Although, the EU legislation on PPE production, sale and supply is very clear. All equipment must be tested to EU standard and by a third party, in order to receive the relevant CE approval mark. However trusting this CE mark is harder in the current climate, as we saw in early April with the discarding of a huge amount of PPE by the HSE, as it didn’t meet the required EU and HPRA standards. With the inadequate equipment in April, it was very clear that sleeves were too short, or some PPE wasn’t waterproof. But the issue now is that some inadequacies won’t be visible to the eye.
There are many examples in other countries, of healthcare professionals suing hospitals and even the government. For example, doctors in the UK are suing the British government due to incorrect advice given in relation to the use of PPE and a family in Texas suing a nursing home over the death or their daughter after she was not provided with the appropriate PPE. Most recently, it was reported that the nurse who cared for the Covid-19 ‘patient zero’ in New York, was suing her employer as she felt that inadequate PPE was supplied to healthcare staff caring for possible Covid-19 patients.
Hospitals and healthcare providers need to ensure their policies around procurement are air-tight. It’s essential for those in charge of PPE procurement and distribution know the legislation inside out and area aware of any amendments to this legislation in the wake of the pandemic. They should also be aware of instances of inadequate PPE production, what to look for etc.
The EU did relax their approach slightly in the wake of Covid-19, due to the overwhelming demand, but the standards still needed to be adhered to. The HPRA still need to approve any equipment being used by staff who are at risk of being exposed to Covid-19.
For more information, please contact Head of Medical Negligence, Avril Scally at firstname.lastname@example.org, Head of Employment, Marc Fitzgibbon at email@example.com, or call 01 644 5800.