For three days in a row, a young nursing officer used the plastic cover that personal protective equipment (PPE) comes wrapped in to cover his face while treating COVID-19 patients at Delhi government’s Lok Nayak Hospital.
“PPEs that some of us have received in the last few weeks do not have face-shields, so we don’t have any option. When we get the PPEs at the start of the shift, we save the plastic cover, tape it up and then meet COVID-19 patients. This is especially important in the ICU and medicine wards. We have to protect ourselves during suctioning and ensure no droplets fall on us. We don’t have a choice,” he claimed.
A senior nursing officer at the hospital said that “in some PPE kits, plastic goggles are broken, and we have to use tape on them”, while a ward in-charge said that “a new consignment of PPE kits at the hospital does not come with foot covers”.
So far, 55 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus in the capital, including a deputy nursing superintendent and an assistant nursing superintendent of Lok Nayak Hospital. Nursing officers told The Indian Express that despite this, “poor quality of PPEs” is being given to them.
A ward head at Lok Nayak said that “sometimes, nurses without face shields end up using X-Ray films while treating COVID-19 patients”. “When I saw this, I was alarmed and have now personally interfered to ensure that at least in my ward, there are PPEs with face shields. If a nurse gets a PPE without a face-shield, we ask them to do paper work. Ideally, even nursing officers doing paperwork should have face shields,” the ward in-charge said.
Dr J C Passey, medical director at the hospital, said, “We are ordering PPEs in bulk and there might be a possibility that some are not up to the mark. They can be replaced later on. At present, we have enough PPEs for all medical staff and there is no shortage.”
Nursing officers at the hospital claimed that due to a shortage of PPEs, one nursing officer has to manage the shift with one PPE only. A nursing officer who has 34 COVID-19 patients under her at the hospital said, “There are two nursing officers on duty per shift but since we only have one PPE, we have split it to a six-hour shift. Once I wear the PPE, I cannot eat food, drink water or go to the washroom. This means I can’t wear that PPE beyond six hours.”
Another nursing officer said that more than twice, she felt dehydrated as the PPE “makes us sweat and we are unable to drink water”. She said, “We are managing like this for now, it’s very hard. But we fear that once the number of patients increases, we won’t be able to split our shift to six hours, and will have to resort to wearing adult diapers. Each PPE should not be worn for longer than three-four hours. We hope the hospital can manage more soon.”