The state government on Wednesday said it was working to plug the deficit of masks and personal protective equipment (PPEs) for healthcare workers at state-run hospitals after many complained about insufficient protective gear in the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Some doctors complained that they received rainwear instead of PPEs.
“Firstly, there was a lack of masks and hand gloves,” said Sahariar Alam, a doctor at North Bengal Medical College, where a patient has died of COVID-19. “PPE kits were also insufficient. Some of the kits were actually rainwear. We informed the authorities here a number of times. The nurses too met the authorities. We heard a consignment of PPEs has arrived, and we will get it today. Basic protection is necessary for us, nurses and medical staff. The masks are to be worn for only six to eight hours.”
Association of Health Service Doctors Secretary Manas Gumta said the government was providing doctors insurance. “But we don’t need insurance,” he added. “We need protection. If someone has huge insurance, then that person will not want to die. Similarly, we also don’t want to die. On the other hand, if doctors, nurses and medical staff start getting infected with COVID-19, then the country will face a severe crisis of medical staff. That will also create another problem in the fight against the coronavirus.”
Service Doctors Forum General Secretary Sajal Biswas also claimed that many of his colleagues across the state had received rainwear instead of PPEs, and urged the government to solve the problem. West Bengal Doctors Forum leader Arjun Dasgupta expressed his faith in the government but said it would be a big problem if medical workers start getting infected with COVID-19 while treating patients.
The government admitted that initially there was a scarcity of masks and PPEs in the market, but added that enough would be available within a week since it had started to manufacture them.
“We have already supplied 1,11,394 PPEs, 42,296 N-95 masks, 1.62-lakh layer masks, 18,363 hand sanitisers, and 3,200 thermal guns,” said Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “The central government did not help us. We are not getting ready-made equipment. So, the procurement of such things is time taking.”
After meeting Banerjee, Abhijit Chowdhury, a member of a doctors’ committee advising the government, pointed out there was a scarcity of protective equipment for healthcare workers across India.
“The government is trying its best to arrange them,” he added. “But, now the time is to fight against the coronavirus pandemic. So, we don’t stop our work and divert our focus. Then, common people will panic more.”
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