Face-masks no longer compulsory

When the nurse woke me yesterday morning, I didn’t really register the change. I was half-asleep still. It wasn’t until subsequent visits by other staff that I noticed none of the staff were wearing face masks.

As of yesterday, NSW Health has amended the regulations, meaning face-masks are no longer compulsory for hospital staff, patients, or visitors, unless you’re in a high-risk setting, such as aged care or disability, or were yourself exhibiting symptoms of cold or flu. Though not compulsory, wearing masks is however, still strongly encouraged in settings like pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and similar areas.

Noting the signifiance of the change, I reached out to my colleagues at ABC Radio Sydney, and today, I spoke with Richard Glover on his show, “Drive.”

“The relief and smiles on the faces of all the staff, the medical professionals, and everyone here yesterday and today were immense,” I told Richard.

“They approach, take your temperature, and the other end of things too”, I told Richard emphasising the intimate relationship you experience with staff in hospitals.

The reason for change is because the number of COVID and flu cases has fallen significantly.

Nonetheless, I spoke about the suspected COVID-19 case in our room a few weeks ago. Despite no one displaying symptoms or testing positive, the staff had to adhere to the full personal protective equipment (PPE) protocol.

I also shared the story of a nurse who reminisced about the height of the pandemic, when they were consistently clad in PPE, even in the absence of air conditioning – leading to sweaty and challenging days.

Listeners called in to the radio show to to share their perspectives.

Lynn, a nurse , described the blend of liberation and vulnerability she felt when taking off her mask after a grueling shift. Enhanced communication and clearer patient interactions were among the positive outcomes.

John, a midwife, shed light on the practical hardships healthcare workers had faced due to masks – glasses fogging up and constant mask adjustments.

Carrie, another midwife, delved into the emotional toll of not being able to gauge facial expressions during sensitive childbirth moments. She articulated how this unmasking would bring invaluable insight into patients’ emotional states, especially in situations of heightened emotions.

Shortly after the radio discussion, a nurse entered my room for vital checks, and I saw his smile for the first time. “It’s wonderful, but also a bit scary,” he said.

Some staff here at Sacred Heart are still wearing masks.

Listen to the radio segment from ABC Radio Sydney

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