The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood has defended its decision for staff and donors to not wear masks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Port Macquarie resident, who didn't wish to be identified, voiced her concerns after she went to donate blood at the Port Macquarie centre on Monday, March 30.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, she wore a mask and gloves as a precaution to protect herself.
However, she was told by a staff member to remove her mask, so they could identify her and in case she became unwell while donating blood.
Due to the response, the woman declined to give blood as she was concerned for her safety and didn't agree with the centre's measures.
She was surprised by the response, but said on the whole the staff at the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood do amazing work.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood chief medical officer Dr Joanne Pink defended the centre's stance and said donors can bring their own masks into a centre, but staff do need to ask them to remove it, so they can identify them and monitor them for their own safety during their donation.
Dr Pink acknowledged this is an anxious time for everyone and she fully understand people's concerns about protecting themselves.
"Staff, donor and product safety is our primary concern at Lifeblood," she said.
"The health of the nation depends on it.
"We are following the latest clinical and scientific evidence to ensure our donor centres remain safe for donors and staff."
The organisation has assessed the use of wearing masks within donor centres and Dr Pink there are key reasons for not supplying face masks.
"Our donor centres are places of wellness and donors and staff are required to be healthy and well in order to donate or work," she said.
"Within this context, surgical masks do not offer any significant protection for staff or donors."
Another reason, Dr Pink said why centres don't use surgical masks is because they are in short supply.
"To maximise current stocks and supplies, healthcare facilities have had to implement a number of measures to rationalise the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 and for other infections requiring transmission-based precautions," she said.
"In general PPE is not recommended for use by staff in acute healthcare facilities when dealing with an asymptomatic individual with no risk factors for COVID-19, for example in general hospital wards and in clinics."
Dr Pink said it's important for the community to support acute health workforce so that they remain strong and healthy during this time.
This week the organisation has started rolling out Wellness Checks at donor centres across Australia to evaluate whether donors are well enough to enter.
Dr Pink said the checks will begin in Port Macquarie in the coming days.
The checks will involve donors being triaged before their appointment and asked three questions including on recent travel, if they've been diagnosed with COVID-19 or in close contact with someone who has.
"If their responses are in line with our eligibility criteria, they will proceed to a non-contact temperature check," Dr Pink said.
"Any donors with a fever will not be allowed to register for their donation."
Other measures already in place at the centres to further protect staff and donors, include restricting access to non-donating visitors, introducing social distancing, continuing the process of staff wearing gloves and eye protection when in close contact with a donor and practicing high hygiene.
There is a 28-day postponement of blood donation for anyone who has returned from overseas.
Dr Pink said the need for blood is constant and an additional 29 donors are required between now and the end of next week in Port Macquarie.
To make an appointment to donate, call 13 14 95 or see lifeblood.com.au