Australian doctors and nurses who are treating patients with coronavirus are being put at risk by an influx of counterfeit face masks made in China, experts claim.
A shocking video posted by independent health consultant Kate Cole, shows just how flimsy the dodgy personal protective equipment is.
Ms Cole is able to snap the face mask strap in a demonstration with minimal force.
Independent health consultant Kate Cole (pictured) is concerned fake Chinese-made mask are flooding private hospitals
The Therapeutic Goods Administration normally requires all protective face masks and medical devices to undergo strict testing.
But in March, with the country’s hospitals fearing a shortfall, the Department of Health ordered the Therapeutic Goods Administration to forgo the strict protocols ‘so that those devices can be made available urgently to deal with public health emergencies’, the department said.
But now medical experts fear rogue suppliers have taken advantage of Australia’s lack of quality control.
Although companies selling face masks under the relaxed new rules are only able to sell directly to the Department of Health, it appears a number of the face masks have made their way into the private hospital sector.
Australian Society of Anaesthetists president Suzi Nou told the Sydney Morning Herald many of her members had reported receiving fake masks.
‘That means we’re at increased risk of getting infected,’ Dr Nou said.
‘That impacts the health system – it takes out a team of doctors and nurses who can’t care for patients. And it risks infecting other patients, that we can become transmitters of infection.’
Australian Society of Anaesthetists president Suzi Nou said frontline health workers are at risk of being infected due to the dodgy masks. Pictured: Prince of Wales Hospital staff in Sydney are pictured wearing protective face masks on May 12
A nurse working at one of Victoria’s Mobile Testing Sites at Highpoint Shopping Centre is pictured in full protective gear May 4
The substandard masks have also hit the shelves at stores like Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse and Chemist Direct, according to Ms Cole.
‘(I) Decided to check out the KN95 face masks sold at Bunnings,’ she posted on Twitter
‘True KN95 masks are certified to Chinese Std GB2626 which has a requirement that the straps are able to withstand 10N of force.
‘Either I just got really strong or someone did zero due diligence in the purchasing dept.’
Ms Cole said she had received dozens of reports of suspect face masks since the pandemic took hold and has reviewed about 50 brands of masks – all of which she believed to be ‘complete counterfeit rubbish’.
As well as frontline health staff, industrial workers using hazardous materials also require the vital safety equipment.
Onsite Safety director Chris Bellamy revealed he has been conducting independent tests as lockdown restrictions begin to ease across the country.
He said all Chinese-made masks he tested failed basic checks.
‘A lot of them coming in don’t have the correct marking, so you can tell they are fake straight away,’ he said.
‘And the [Chinese-made] KN95 mask, it fails in testing as soon as we do it.’
Despite the alarming claims, a Department of Health spokesperson said out of the 100 million masks which have been received into the National Medical Stockpile, more than 40 million masks distributed.
Some of the Chinese-made masks which are claimed to be counterfeit are pictured
‘To date, the Department has not received unsatisfactory stock,’ the statement said.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration said they have now introduced ‘additional surveillance’ for masks and gowns.
‘The additional surveillance maintains high visibility of all new applications associated with these devices allowing the TGA to swiftly react to any reports of counterfeit or poor quality products,’ the statement said.
‘Information sharing with overseas regulators to identify products where issues have been identified.’
Bunnings, Chemist Warehouse and Chemist Direct have been contacted for comment.