Protection needed for all healthcare professionals in all high risk settings

15 April 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) welcomes Minister Hunt’s announcement over the weekend of 11 million medical masks for healthcare workers.

RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan, expressed his gratitude but cautioned that the health and safety of all healthcare workers needs to be prioritised, including  psychiatrists working in high risk settings.

‘We understand that government has made this a top priority and are encouraged by their commitment to protecting those commonly recognised as on the frontline, however we must not forget other healthcare workers, like psychiatrists, who may also be in need of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to continue providing their essential service to the public’, said Associate Professor Allan.

‘The RANZCP has heard concerning reports of little or no access to PPE for psychiatrists in high risk settings such as hospital emergency departments and other healthcare facilities.

‘The health and safety of everyone working in these settings needs to be guaranteed and this cannot be done without a sufficient, appropriate and sustained supply of PPE.

‘We have psychiatrists and trainees who work in public hospitals and are often called down to the emergency department to provide a mental health assessment and we have psychiatrists who work in high risk settings such as aged care or detention facilities that are not receiving access to PPE.

The RANZCP is urging governments to prioritise the provision of not only sufficient PPE supplies but also National agreement and standards on the use of PPE in a broader range of high risk situations.

‘We are asking for more explicit guidance from governments on what is considered safe practice for all our doctors who must interact with patients face-to-face, sometimes in very close proximity, for extended periods of time,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘All necessary precautions should be taken against COVID-19 at all times and in every situation.

‘This includes workplaces providing adequate PPE to their workers, as well as clear and well informed guidance on its use and application – especially in some of these less recognised high risk settings.

‘No matter what the issues of supply, the safety of psychiatrists, trainees and all healthcare workers should be paramount.

‘Those with mental health conditions will continue to require care during this pandemic and psychiatrists are committed to delivering that care with a reasonable expectation of their own safety and wellbeing.’

For more information and for all other expert mental health information, visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email