News in brief: Neurologist helps the homeless; Aussie scientists suggest amyloid cause for COVID-19 neurological symptoms; Healthcare staff bullied and stressed over PPE provision

16 Jun 2022

Neurologist helps the homeless

A neurologist has shared her story about volunteering with homeless healthcare charity Street Side Medics

Dr Miriam Wronski is part of a group of volunteers at the charity, which has been operating roaming medical vans around NSW since 2020.

Equipped with an ECG, ultrasound, spirometry machine and point of care pathology testing, the doctors provide vaccinations and basic medications, but say drug and alcohol issues and mental health are the most common presentations.

The charity was founded by junior medical officer Dr Daniel Nour, who was named 2022 Young Australian of The Year award earlier this year.

“For the person experiencing homelessness or rough sleeping, on any given night they are thinking ‘What food am I getting? Where am I sleeping?’. They aren’t necessarily thinking about healthcare,” he told the Daily Telegraph this week.

“We take our van to existing food services and bring our service free of charge. We have a doctor with a range of equipment and services in the van, and when they come in they see a difference in their healthcare and that’s what keeps them coming back.”

Aussie scientists suggest amyloid cause for COVID-19 neurological symptoms

The neurological symptoms of COVID-19 may share an amyloid molecular aetiology with similarities to neurodegenerative diseases, according to Australian researchers.

Scientists at La Trobe University, Victoria have identified two peptides from the SARSCoV-2 proteome that self-assemble into amyloids that are highly toxic to neuronal cells.

They postulate that the neurotropic SARS-COV-2 virus may penetrate the CNS where its ORF proteins form toxic amyloid assemblies that cause a form of neurotoxicity similar to that seen with amyloid assemblies in Alzheimers disease.

“The cytotoxicity and protease-resistant structure of these assemblies may result in their persistent presence in the CNS of patients post-infection that could partially explain the lasting neurological symptoms of COVID-19, especially those that are novel in relation to other post-viral syndromes such as that following the original SARS-CoV-1,” they write in Nature Communications

Healthcare staff bullied and stressed over PPE provision

One in five frontline healthcare workers received no training on the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 when the pandemic was at its height in 2021, and only half received formal training in the workplace, according to a survey of Victorian healthcare staff.

Responses from 2258 healthcare workers (80% women, 49% doctors and 40% nurses) revealed a wide range of problems with PPE provision in 2021, including a lack of PPE training (20%), lack of fit testing, insufficient PPE (25%) and reuse or extended use of PPE (47%).

More than three quarters (77%) of staff reported workplace bullying by management for being ‘troublemakers’ when they raised issues over PPE, and y more than one fifth (22%) reported moderate to severe anxiety related to the lack of training and provision of PPE.

Similarly, about half of staff (48%) reported confusion and concern  about inconsistent and frequently changing PPE guidelines that failed to recognise the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2
“The lack of bargaining power for many respondents limited their agency to resolve matters further exacerbating physical, psychological and financial impacts,” said the authors of the study published in PLOS One.

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