29/04/2020 - 11:22

Miller, union want teacher PPE

29/04/2020 - 11:22

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Australian Medical Association of WA president Andrew Miller and the teachers’ union have called for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided for use in the classroom, in a message that runs counter to government advice.

Miller, union want teacher PPE
Andrew Miller says teachers should be able to access PPE if they feel it is necessary. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Australian Medical Association of WA president Andrew Miller and the teachers’ union have called for personal protective equipment (PPE) to be provided for use in the classroom, in a message that runs counter to government advice.

As Western Australia prepares for the soft reopening of schools in term two, the McGowan state and Morrison federal governments have said new hygiene and social distancing regimens would be sufficient to halt the spread of COVID-19 between students and teachers.

State School Teacher’s Union of WA president Pat Byrne disagrees, saying some teachers would need access to protective equipment when teaching younger students or those with learning disabilities.

“We want that focused on areas that particularly need it,” Ms Byrne said.

“We’re talking, for example, special education students, we’re talking very young students, students who are simply incapable of practising social distancing.

“They bite, they kick, they scratch, and in a special education setting, that’s actually quite routine.

“For teachers in that situation, we would expect PPE as a matter of course.”

Dr Miller told Business News there was generally not a high risk of contracting the virus, given the current rate of infection was low and community transmission did not appear widespread.

However, he said the government ought to cater for the needs of individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, or those who would simply feel more comfortable if they had access to PPE.

“We want these people to stay in the workforce and, in a way, we have to treat them a bit like a customer and ask what it is they need to feel safe and secure,” Dr Miller said.

“I think you’ll find the uptake of it won’t be particularly high; it’s a bit of a drag wearing a mask, gloves and goggles all the time.

“Once people feel more secure about the other arrangements at a school, and they see the cleaning and the hygiene, and see the case numbers stay low and the community spread stay low, I think you’d find the consumption of it [won’t be] very high, but of course we should provide it if they want it.”

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