As the COVID-19 cases steeply rise in India, with the country entering the local transmission and limited community transmission stage, the lack of protective gears for medical staff has become a cause of anxiety and fear among the resident doctors at Government Medical College and Hospital in Sector 32, who say that despite raising demands for more equipments and protective gears, their plea remain unanswered by the administration.
No PPE, protocol
Even as 12 persons suffering from the coronavirus disease are being treated at the hospital, the hospital staff faces a shortage of PPE, as claimed by a senior resident doctor of the hospital’s Anesthesiology department, Dr Dinesh Kumar. The doctor made a public post on Facebook, revealing the lack of PPE kits at the screening ward. “I am posted at the coronavirus screening OPD these days, where there is no proper PPE kit. I informed the nursing sister verbally, wrote a letter to the Medical Superintendent and had a face-to-face conversation with the director principal sir regarding the matter on the same day. But that’s all, there is no solution to this, they are saying that proper PPE kit for coronavirus is not available in India,” he states in the post.
Another junior resident from the ENT department, who worked one shift at the screening ward, states that most of the kits are reserved strictly for those entering the isolation ward. “But there is a potential for cases to crop up in the emergency wards and of course the screening ward is also very susceptible because of the number of patients coming in everyday. Moreover, the equipment we get is not the full hazmat suit. It contains a robe and a mask. It does not provide the coverage one needs to prevent the contraction of COVID-19,” says the resident doctor. At least eighty patients get screened for the disease at GMCH 32 everyday.
Even people in direct contact with the patients are not being given PPEs. The staffers are taking throat swabs, and are performing nasal exams with only a mask and a surgical gown. The masks and gowns are being used continuously for 2-3 days as there is a severe shortage,” says a final year MD student working at the emergency ward, who did not want to be identified. He added, “The administration is saying that almost 20 kits that they do have are only to be opened in dire emergency. I don’t understand what dire emergency means. We are in direct contact with positive cases, if this isn’t dire, I do not know what will be.”
Not following ICMR guidelines
According to the resident doctors working in close contact with positive and presumptive cases, people walking in with even severe symptoms not being tested. According to the ICMR guidelines, all hospitalised patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Infections need to be tested, but that is not being followed in the hospitals of Chandigarh.
Meanwhile, GMCH has issued its own guidelines for Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), which says that all severe acute respiratory illness requiring hospitalisation without any alternative etiologic diagnosis will be tested. “It simply means that patients will only be tested for COVID-19 after you rule out any other disease. To keep the numbers down, they are not testing enough people,” says the resident doctor.
A person with travel history of New Zealand had come to get himself tested, but we did not admit him. He came back a week later with symptoms and then we collected him samples for the test. If we had admitted him before, we could have reduced his potential contact with so many other people,” says the junior resident doctor at the ENT department.
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