QMT Features: January 2010
Hired instrument helps hospitals check Swine Flu safety masks
Respiratory face masks at hospitals and in primary care across Hertfordshire have been checked by advanced Fit Tester instrumentation

As part of a strategy to manage the Swine Flu pandemic, hundreds of respiratory face masks worn by staff at hospitals and in primary care across Hertfordshire have been checked by advanced Fit Tester instrumentation hired from Ashtead Technology.

The Hertfordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) contacted Ashtead to hire the TSI PortaCount 8020 as a protective measure to ensure that all FFP3 masks were properly fitted, prior to staff treating patients suffering from the H1N1 flu in certain high risk situations.

The PortaCount 8020 provides the most effective method of determining the fit of almost any half or full-face mask by measuring the particle concentration both inside and outside the connected respirator. The PortaCount measurements are made as the wearer performs a range of movements and breathing exercises that stress the respirator seal with real-world body movements. Results are provided with an accurate and instant pass/fail result.

The masks were worn by staff at hospitals and community health premises across Hertfordshire to help prevent the spread of potential infection and minimise staff absence. They were issued by the Department of Health over the summer, in conjunction with a requirement for FFP3 masks to be 'fit-tested' prior to being used as part of the Swine Flu Response Programme.

Tony Ferrari, Head of Emergency Planning at the PCT, explained: “At the onset of the Swine Flu outbreak earlier this year, nobody knew how quickly it would develop, so we wanted to ensure that we had taken all necessary protective measures.
“NHS staff treating patients with Swine Flu in certain high risk situations had to wear disposable FFP3 masks. The hired PortaCount 8020 was then able to check each mask to ensure that they were sealed to the face correctly.

Renting was preferable to purchase because of the uncertainty surrounding the likely severity and duration of the Swine Flu pandemic. The PortaCount played an important role in helping us to treat swine flu across the county, because masks worn and fitted improperly could have contributed to the potential spread of the virus.”

Alan Hasson, Ashtead’s General Manager, said: “This instrument is commonly employed to check face masks in a wide variety of applications including, fire fighting, industrial safety and healthcare. A major benefit of renting is that customers have access to the most up-to-date instrumentation in the market, whilst avoiding the capital cost associated with buying outright.”
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