SYDNEY — Catholic Health Australia, which manages one in eight hospital beds in Australia, is calling on retailers to stop selling N95 hospital-grade masks to the public, as limited numbers in Australia will be exhausted with disastrous consequences on the health system.

“These masks are on sale in Chemist Warehouse and Office Warehouse, but hospitals across the country are scrambling to access these life-saving masks,” said James Kemp, director of health policy at Catholic Health Australia.

Like the toilet paper hoarding frenzy witnessed earlier in the year at the onset of the pandemic — which exhausted supplies from shelves — wide-scale retail access to hospital-grade equipment will exhaust essential products from the health industry, where they are needed in emergency and intensive care wards, the association said.

“We are calling on retailers and wholesalers to think twice about sourcing these masks to sell to the public. As we have seen, this pandemic can surge very quickly — we need to make every mask count.”

A P2/N95 mask removes around 95 percent of all particles that are at least 0.3 microns in diameter; the masks are essential in the fight against COVID-19, which has claimed the lives of thousands of hospital staff around the world.

Catholic Health Australia is encouraging the public to wear masks, but emphasized that national stocks of N95 masks need to be preserved; it said there are many other masks that can protect the public.

“There is real pressure on the supply of these masks. Some hospitals in Victoria are reaching out to health providers in less-affected states to ask if they can access their stocks of N95 masks,” said Kemp.

“The guidelines for wearing a mask in public is that it does not need to be a medical-grade mask, and certainly not an N95. While we all want to protect ourselves and our loved ones, the best way we can do this is to mask up in public but leave the N95 masks to our clinicians who need them.”

“COVID-19 cases are rising all over the country, and we have to make sure our frontline staff are protected,” he said.