The Member of the Senedd for the Rhondda has called on the Labour Government to be more proactive and less complacent about the lack of PPE designed for women.
In April, Leanne Wood called on the Health Minister to source gender specific PPE to ensure women – who make up the overwhelming majority of workers in the NHS and social care settings – are adequately protected.
In correspondence in reply to Ms Wood earlier this month, the Labour Health Minister said he had been ‘advised that the industry considers that it is not necessary to produce gender specific PPE due to the range of sizes available.’
This advice conflicts with responses from workers on the ground. Four years ago, a survey conducted by a number of organisations - including the trade union Prospect and the TUC - showed that 57% of the women who took part found that their PPE sometimes or significantly hampered their work. Figures released by Public Health Wales this week found that women make up nearly two-thirds of all confirmed coronavirus cases.
Ms Wood said the approach to protecting women risking their lives to treat patients and residents was “not good enough.”
“An estimated 77% of the NHS workforce in Wales are women,” she said.
“An even higher proportion of women work in social care settings; another high risk sector for coronavirus. Social Care Wales estimate it to be as high as 83% of the workforce.
“We know not just from anecdotal evidence, but from trade union surveys as well, that the equipment provided is designed to fit men. Women have different shaped bodies; even the goggles can be too big for many women’s heads. To expect such a large proportion of the workforce to wear ill-fitting protective equipment, especially when their lives are on the line, is not good enough.
“To sit back and do nothing – as the Labour Government is content to do – shows a dereliction of duty to the thousands of women workers who have stepped up to protect the public from coronavirus.
“It is astonishing complacency and it is irresponsible.”
Leanne added: “I have written back to the Labour Health Minister, asking him to reveal who advised him that it is not necessary to provide PPE designed for women, contrary to the evidence we have from workers on the ground.
“I have also called on this Labour Government to be more proactive about supplying women with the basic equipment to keep themselves, patients and care home residents safe.”