COVID-19: Flimsy Masks, Raincoats as Protective Gear for WB Docs

In the name of Personal Protective Equipment, we received raincoats and flimsy masks.

My Report
3 min read

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
Producers: Aastha Gulati & Rupsha Bhadra

I am a resident doctor at one of Kolkata’s biggest government hospitals. In the coming weeks, I expect to be at the forefront of dealing with the deluge of patients that come our way as the coronavirus pandemic spreads further in West Bengal.

Doctors feel they have been left in the lurch because even the best Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is available to people in Europe and Western countries has not been able to protect them, while we, as government doctors, have been provided with raincoats in the name of PPEs.

(Click here for live updates on COVID-19. Also visit Quint Fit for comprehensive coverage on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.)

There is a huge dearth of N95 masks, which is a must have for any professional who is dealing with COVID-19 patients. We have been asking for it in the hospitals but they are not to be found anywhere.

Helpless, we bought our own N95 masks from the market at much higher prices. We aren’t happy at all with the flimsy masks provided by the government and thus resorted to this method. At least it brings us some peace of mind. It’s recommended for doctors to not re-use N95 masks after using them for an eight-hour shift, but it is also not possible for us to keep buying masks every day, so we end up re-using them anyway.

The situation is similar in certain other parts of Bengal too, as I gathered from a colleague in North Bengal.

“We don’t have gowns, we don’t have shoe-covers, we don’t have goggles. We are exposed to patients everyday; patients and their family members who have travel history. They have been asked to stay at home. Home quarantine is what we have been recommending but you never know who is in the incubating period.”

Doctors at High Risk of COVID-19

Patients come with pneumonia and respiratory distress. The doctor who is attending these emergency patients is never in the know. So even if a doctor is not directly dealing with a confirmed COVID-19 case, all medical professionals in emergencies are at risk of exposure.

For example, doctors who had to intubate patients were given raincoats early last week. Those were given for the R-ICU usage. Even in the emergency OTs, surgeries have been administered without PPEs. How would we know which patients are infected?

Even if you leave out people in the screening hospitals, even doctors posted in the specific coronavirus hospitals were given only raincoats. They were not given anything else prior to this hue and cry.

We expect a huge number of COVID-19 positive patients coming in the next few weeks. The government’s efforts at creating more beds available for isolation and quarantine, even ICUs are commendable. There’s just the fear that we might be doing too little, too late. As a colleaguse puts it,

“I request the government to come up with something that would take care of the protection of the doctors because doctors collapse if this system collapses. Then there will be no one to take care of the sick. If doctors quarantine themselves or get quarantined due to exposure, that will be the worst possible scenario in a country that is already resource-poor.”
I say this because the fact is that we’re just not testing enough. 

In spite of WHO’s repeated directions about extensive testing, an abysmally small amount of testing is happening in the state. There are reports that suggest that more kits are coming in. There is still an acute shortage of testing kits. Thus, we fear that the disease has already spread in the community which the official numbers aren’t reflecting.

(The Quint tried reaching out to the hospitals in question but hasn’t received a response yet. The story will be updated as soon as we hear from them.)

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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