Nursing homes using sub-par mouth masks on a large scale: report

Personal protective equipment including medical masks on sale at a store in Amsterdam Oost. 24 April 2020
Personal protective equipment including medical masks on sale at a store in Amsterdam Oost. 24 April 2020NL Times

Many of the medical masks nursing home workers use while working with residents who have the coronavirus, are defective. Newspaper AD had Greencycl in Utrecht, the company that tests medical masks for hospitals, test 25 masks commonly used in nursing homes' coronavirus wards. 12 failed the test, according to the newspaper.

Many of the masks let too many particles pass through and therefore scored an insufficient. A number of masks were up to 30 percent below the minimum score, according to AD. One type of mask expired 10 years ago.

The mask that scored the worst is used at Talma Borgh, a residential care center in Apeldoorn. Director Pieter van der Hoek is shocked. The masks were bought from a "reliable party" in the medical industry, he said to the newspaper. "You think you're protecting your staff well and enable them to work as safely as possible, but then the masks you bought are no good," he said to the newspaper. "It is outrageous that, even when it comes to safety, you can be screwed over."

According to public health institute RIVM, surgical masks - the blue, rectangular masks surgeons use during surgery - generally provide sufficient protection against the coronavirus in nursing homes. But many nursing homes doubt this and bought FFP masks to provide employees with additional protection. FFP masks that pass the quality tests stop more particles and are used as standard in intensive care units in hospitals. But where hospitals have their masks tested before use, nursing homes usually don't have that option, according to AD. 

Michel van Erp of NU'91, the association for nurses and care providers, understands nursing homes' wish to offer their staff as much protection as possible. "Staff there deal intensively with corona patients. Day in and day out. The surgical mouth masks prescribed by RIVM are really not good enough. It is logical that nursing homes then purchase FFP masks. It is very annoying that in many cases they score insufficiently," he said. 

NU'91 is "very shocked" by the results, the association said to the newspaper. "Physical contact between staff and residents in corona departments cannot be prevented. To guarantee the safety of the personnel at such times, the protective equipment must really be in order.