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COVID-19 Reality Check: Bihar Doctors Wear Raincoats, Use HIV Kits

Those who are standing on the frontline to battle the coronavirus have been themselves left without any protection.

Published
News Videos
3 min read

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Video Producer:
Hera Khan

“We have nothing except surgical masks. No N95, no gown, no cap, no glasses.”

These are the words of a doctor at Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) in Bihar’s capital city.

Those brave hearts who are standing on the frontlines to battle the coronavirus have been themselves left without any protection.

The question is, are these doctors well-prepared for the fight? Do they have the means to protect themselves? Do they have the means to fight the virus?

The answer is no.

The Quint spoke to some doctors to tell you the reality of what's happening in some well-known hospitals in Bihar.

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Fighting Coronavirus Wearing HIV Kit

Doctors in Bihar’s PMCH are complaining that they’ve not been given any safety kit. Forget about safety kits, they are saying they don’t even have N95 masks, hand sanitizers or even the PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).

Some even said instead of PPE they were given HIV kits, which don’t serve the purpose.

“In Bihar, HIV kit is supplied in the name of PPE. If we treat using the HIV kit, it creates a bigger risk of infection. We arranged for three raincoats. If our bodies are not covered and we are made to fully expose ourselves to the patient then we will wear the raincoats.”
A Doctor, PMCH, Bihar

Hospital Claims Everything is Ready

The medical superintendent of the PMCH dismissed the accusation. According to him, all the facilities for the doctors are available at PMCH.

However, PMCH doctors have been reportedly asked to wear surgical masks, use normal hand gloves and wear the gown used in operation theatres because they don’t have the PPE.

“So far they have done nothing to protect doctors at PMCH. I can’t see anything where we can say that we are being given safety equipment. There is a Tata ward here where patients are coming. Not just corona patients, but normal patients too. And doctors there are working with normal suits.”
Doctor, PMCH, Bihar
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Doctors Demand 14-Day Quarantine

In another well-known college in Bihar’s Patna, Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, 83 junior students wrote a letter to their medical superintendent and their health secretary demanding 14 days of quarantine time. These doctors want to be sent into isolation.

Their demands were, however, rejected by the authorities.

Threatened With Action for Demanding N95 Masks

Students of Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital in Bihar’s Bhagalpur had written to their authorities asking for N95 masks, sanitizers, and gowns.

“We forwarded applications and wrote complaints so that we can get protection kits. They replied saying that protective kits can’t be made available to us because they’re not in stock and that we will have to continue doing our duty like this or action would be taken against us.”
A Doctor, NMCH, Bihar
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Similar Situation Prevails in AIIMS Patna

These stories are not limited to PMCH or NMCH. AIIMS Patna tells of a similar situation. Here’s what an AIIMS doctor in Patna said:

“Doctors went to ask that if they didn’t have N95 masks, how could they work. They were told that they would not be provided with anything, if they want to work, they will have to work like this, or they would be removed.”

The Quint has withheld the doctors’ names as, fearing action, they all wanted to remain anonymous. They are scared that departmental action will be taken against them, their registration might get cancelled, or they might be failed in their internal exams.

But amid all this, the big question is – is Bihar’s healthcare system so unwell that it cannot provide protective kits to these doctors? In such a situation, will we be able to win the battle against the coronavirus?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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