It's been almost 2 months since the first cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Kerala. The patients recovered after their successful treatment.
Then earlier this month, two Indians were found infected with the virus. Since then, the number of positive coronavirus cases have increased rapidly in India. The situation is such that right now the entire country is under lockdown.
Amid lockdown, there's a section of people - healthcare professionals - who are exposed to infected patients day in, day out. And there's no guarantee of their safety.
Despite being exposed to potentially infected people, they have no access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
One major question that comes up is, why is it taking our government so long to provide PPE to doctors?
According to WHO, the protective equipment usually consists of gloves, mask and gown. For high-risk infections, they also include, face protection, goggles and mask, gloves, gown or coverall, head cover and rubber boots.
Leave the PPE kit aside, doctors in India do not even have the basic equipment like masks and gloves even after 2 months of detection of first case in the country.
As of now, PPE kits are being provided as per ICMR guidelines to those who come in direct contact with suspected and confirmed cases in the isolation ward.
Now apart from the isolation wards set up for COVID-19 patients, hospitals have lakhs of other patients visiting daily. What about the doctors who are catering to these patients?
Sir @Eatala_Rajender @MoHFW_INDIA @TelanganaHealth after two doctors are tested positive all doctors and staff are really scared now to work without PPE kit. Request you to kindly look into and provide necessary PPE kit and Sanitizers.— Vijay Kumar TRS 🇮🇳🚗 (@rockingvijay91) March 27, 2020
We urge govt of india #PMOIndia @#drharshvardhan #NitishKumar to provide ppe or we may loose this fight even before fighting. 83 doctor post graduation students got infected in patna bihar. #Covid19India #COVID19 #CoronavirusLockdown #CoronavirusOutbreak https://t.co/Ga1Tq9Uxe1 pic.twitter.com/VGyMAIu2ar— Raunak Basishth (@raunakbasishth) March 26, 2020
There have been several reports of resident doctors and other doctors being tested positive for the virus because they are treating hundreds of patients daily without any protective equipment.
How will doctors work without proper PPE ?— Dr. Mahipal Singh Rathore (@mahipalrathore) March 26, 2020
If many doctors start getting infected (some are bound to), the situation will be unimaginable.@MoHFW_INDIA @DrHVoffice please protect our doctors!https://t.co/ulVo9F4iXk#CoronavirusOubreak #IndiaBattlesCoronavirus
It's been almost a month since WHO issued a warning that there could be a severe disruption in the global supply of personal protective equipment. But all this time, India was comfortably exporting surgical masks, gloves and other things.
Why didn't we stockpile PPE kits when we knew that such a situation could emerge?
Why didn't we prohibit the export of raw materials when we saw that other countries were witnessing a severe shortage already?
Why doctors even at AIIMS are forced to work without PPE( Personal Protective Equipment - Gloves,masks,face shields etc) in life threatening conditions?— Dr.Ghiyasuddin (@GhiyasuddinA) March 26, 2020
Why the government didn't stop export of PPE despite WHO warning before pandemic was so widespread in India?
Also, India has been witnessing active cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of this month, but till date we are facing scarcity of protective equipment for medical professionals.
Shouldn't providing protection to them be our government's topmost priority?
Sir please insist on providing complete Personal protective equipment to healthcare staff managing covid19 patients. ESI hospital, goa nurses and doctors being compelled to manage them without complete PPE.— kirti singh 611 (@kirtisi15468975) March 27, 2020
Because of the unavailability of proper gear and uniforms, doctors across government hospitals in India have been requesting the authorities to suspend OPDs. Dealing with hundreds of patients on daily basis is putting them at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
@narendramodi Sir, most upfront Private Doctor's fighting against Covid19 are at high risk. There are no safety kits (PPE) available in market to buy. Also they are forced to keep clinic/opd open forcefully.— Dr. Preetam Patil (@prp1386) March 26, 2020
Should they work ?? @ianuragthakur @PMOIndia @MoHFW_INDIA @nsitharaman
HLL Lifecare Ltd, the government's sole procurement agency for PPE kits seems to be struggling to match the rising demand.
The health ministry has asked HLL to complete an order of 7.25 lakh body-coveralls, 60 lakh N-95 masks and 1 crore 3 or 2-ply face masks, which is impossible to complete in limited time.
India has hundreds of local manufacturers of PPE kits but none of them have the capacity to scale up their production. Moreover, reports suggest that there's no clarity on standard specifications and probable demand of these kits from the government's side.
All this has led to delay in the procurement of the most essential commodity at present - PPE.
From 20th to 22nd March, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases reported by the ICMR increased from 206 to 341. But instead of addressing the urgent needs of the healthcare workers, our government was concerned about getting all Indians to their balconies to clap in order to thank healthcare workers for their service.
It's good that you want to show gratitude, but this will not boost the morale of healthcare workers who are working in sub-standard conditions with the constant fear of contracting the disease.
India will be collectively failing its healthcare workers if adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are not ensured for doctors, nurses and other staff treating #COVID19-19 patients. https://t.co/xXwjn2wViT@IMAIndiaOrg #CoronavirusOubreak #PPE #IndiaFightsCoronavirus— DR SANTANU SEN (@SantanuSenMP) March 26, 2020
At some places doctors are apparently resorting to the use of raincoats in the absence of hazmat suits.
Raincoats being used as PPE for frontline #doctors at emergency of #Kolkata’s Beliaghata ID Hospital that treats #COVID19. How will India fight #Coronavirus like this?@narendramodi @PMOIndia @drharshvardhan #IndiaFightsCorona #21daysLockdown #Coronafighters pic.twitter.com/0pqIo9d23t— Dr.Indranil Khan M.D. (@Indranil_Khan) March 26, 2020
A senior doctor in Kolkata's premium hospitals doesn't have PPE, and looking for hooded raincoat. The doctors have to reuse masks due to scarcity.— Aparna (@chhuti_is) March 24, 2020
This is the state of health in India. #CoronavirusLockdown #COVID19
At this point, we cannot afford to lose our doctors and nurses to coronavirus. They are the ones who can help us win this battle. If they get exposed and infected, out entire healthcare system will collapse.
Now that we have these 20 days, let's hope that the government steps us its efforts to procure PPE for medical professionals so that the safety of our brave and selfless fighters can be ensured.