Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted personal protective equipment (PPE) supply, distribution, and disposal issues worldwide. Calls to conserve PPE stocks and increase supply resulted in the rapid development of potential disinfection methods, with the possibility of improvements in medical waste reduction. However, how receptive health-care workers are to PPE reuse remains unknown. We aimed to examine the views of health-care workers who used PPE during the first COVID-19 wave in Aotearoa New Zealand, in relation to acceptability of PPE disinfection and reuse. Methods: In this multi-methods survey, health-care workers in New Zealand, were invited via a multimodal recruitment strategy to complete a survey regarding use of PPE during the first COVID-19 wave. Gender question options were male, female, gender diverse, or prefer not to say. Demographic differences in self-reported PPE reuse and acceptability were examined. The survey included closed (single-response, multi-response, ranking, and Likert-scale questions) and open-text questions. Any open-text comments were analysed with thematic analysis. The survey was built and deployed using Qualtrics software. Findings: 1411 health-care workers completed the survey between Oct 7 and Nov 30, 2020. 1397 participants had gender data available (1140 [82%] female and 257 [18%] male) and 995 (74%) of 1347 were of New Zealand European ethnicity. PPE reuse was common and reported by 628 (45%) of the 1411 participants, with 396 (63%) of the 628 reporting reusing PPE multiple times in 1 day. Acceptability of the concept of PPE disinfection for potential reuse was high overall (1196 [85%] of 1411) but varied depending on the type of PPE. Thematic analysis confirmed that PPE reuse was already occurring and respondents recognised the potential benefits of reduced medical wastage and increased PPE supply. Important caveats for consideration included the availability of scientific evidence, level of negotiated risk, and trust in the organisation undertaking PPE disinfection, with clear communication about decontamination processes being crucial to acceptability. Interpretation: PPE reuse occurred frequently during the first wave of COVID-19 in New Zealand. Although support for the disinfection of PPE for reuse was high, the success of any future programmes to reuse PPE will require meaningful engagement and clear communication with health-care workers. Further research into PPE disinfection safety and logistics is warranted, alongside the development of standard operating procedures and clearly communicated policies for the end user, should this more sustainable health-care practice be planned for adoption in certain settings. Funding: New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund) and the Medical Assurance Society Foundation.
The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume 7, February 2023,