Public Health

GI Endoscopists Increase Face Mask Use

“For many practices, this was a wake-up call."

A survey of nearly 1,000 Canadian gastroenterologists showed personal protective equipment (PPE) practices were perhaps not what they should have been prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But all responding physicians said the novel coronavirus has changed their ways, and they will continue to don more complete PPE for the foreseeable future.

The same rings true for GI endoscopists in the U.S.

“For many practices, this was a wake-up call,” Partha Nandi, president and chief medical officer of Michigan-based Pinnacle GI Partners, said in a recent article in the Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News Priority Report.

Prior to the pandemic, many physicians used gowns — though not always fluid-resistant ones — and gloves. It also was not always the norm to wear surgical masks.

“Given the fact that GIs are around blood, bile and stool every single day, it was somewhat alarming,” Scott Fraser, founding partner of Fraser Healthcare, said of gastroenterologist PPE practices pre-COVID. “They would wear gloves and some form of gown, but not usually a level 3–type OR gown that fluids can’t permeate, and very rarely face shields or masks.”

Now, N-95 masks are much more common, or at least surgical masks among the vaccinated, according to the G&E News report.

Risk of COVID-19 exposure for GI endoscopists is the reason so many elective procedures were stalled in 2020, including screening colonoscopies.

Some experts also questioned the possibility of exposure for sterile processing personnel who might also encounter bronchoscopes in the reprocessing suite.

Physicians quoted in the G&E News report noted their practices have added double gloving and shoe covers to their regular PPE practices. These were not the norm prior to COVID-19.

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