Mallee District Aboriginal Services says the safety of its staff and clients is at risk because of the continuing shortages of Personal Protective Equipment as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

MDAS operates GP and health clinics in Mildura and Swan Hill for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their families.

Director of Health and Clinical services at MDAS Danielle Dougherty said Aboriginal people were among the most vulnerable groups in the community, and more supplies of PPE were needed urgently.

“All of our medical suppliers have shortages of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment, and our clinics are among those whose stocks of PPE have now reached critical levels,” Ms Dougherty said.

“The extra Departmental reporting and monitoring requirements we are now complying with and responding to are understandable, but they’re putting enormous pressure on our frontline staff,” she said.

“We are reorganising our resources to accommodate – but what we cannot do is assess, support and treat patients without PPE - it’s not safe for our staff, or for our clients.”

Ms Dougherty said PPE was needed for all frontline medical staff, including GPs, nurses and health workers.

“In regard to COVID-19, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at much higher risk to complications due to underlying health factors, which in turn makes the Koori community at greater risk of a severe illness due to the virus.

“Around half of First Nations people live with a major chronic disease, so it’s more important than ever that we are providing frontline services to our community efficiently and proactively – but we cannot do that without PPE.”