The plight of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Neucrad Health , Subhra Adhikari, April 26, 2020

While most of you are staying safe within the protective cocoon of your house during the lockdown period, healthcare workers need to visit hospitals daily to take care of patients. They cannot practise social distancing, as they need to touch the patients while conducting tests and various medical procedures. In such a condition, adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and following hygienic practices can only keep our medical staff safe from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, many hospitals in India and abroad complain that there is a shortage of supply of PPE, sanitisers, masks, and disinfectants. It can have a deadly impact on COVID-19 treatment. Have a look at the plight of the doctors and nurses treating patients in COVID-19 wards.

The healthcare workers are getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus

Photo of Person in Personal Protective Equipment Using MacBook

Now and then, we are coming across news about healthcare workers getting infected by the novel coronavirus. On 14th March 2020, a 64-year old patient went to PD Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai for a heart ailment. At the time of treatment, he did not disclose that he had a foreign travel history. Within a few days of the check-up, the patient tested positive for COVID-19. He was immediately shifted to Kasturba Hospital for further treatment, and 82 other hospital employees who came in direct contact with the patient without PPE were also isolated at the Kasturba Hospital. The negligence of the patient led to the disruption of operation at the PD Hinduja Hospital.

25 medical staff of the Delhi State Cancer Institute have fallen victims of COVID-19 in early April. Even on 19th April, eight healthcare staff posted at the paediatric intensive care unit of the prestigious Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi became infected with the novel coronavirus. The condition is even grimmer for doctors and nurses performing duties at the isolation or COVID-19 wards at several hospitals. There are complains that the management is not providing adequate safety gears for self protection.

What would happen if medical staff are unable to protect themselves from SARS-CoV-2 virus?

Many hospitals now do not have a sufficient number of surgical masks (n95 masks have become extremely scarce), gloves, sanitisers, liquid soaps, PPE, and antiviral disinfectants. As a consequence, several medical workers are testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus in different states whenever they are coming in direct contact with positive COVID-19 patients. If this situation continues, then within a few days, there will be a total breakdown of healthcare facilities. The government will be forced to suspend operations at hospitals and isolation wards as there will be no one to offer treatment to patients.

How can we save our doctors and nurses?

The government must increase the number of tests in each state for segregating and isolating COVID-19 patients. It should be the first approach to arrest the spread of the pandemic and saving our healthcare workers from coming in contact with asymptomatic or pre-clinical patients. The government should also allocate more funds for purchasing enough quantity of masks, gloves, sanitisers, liquid soaps, PPE, and antiviral disinfectants. None of the hospitals should complain of inadequate supply of safety gears and disinfecting solutions. Safety matters!!

Sanitation staff should improve their surveillance and focus on frequently disinfecting surfaces commonly touched by patients, including door handles, examining chairs, switchboards, and waiting arena. Patients should always wear a mask whenever they visit any hospital for any medical ailment. People should not hide about COVID-19 related symptoms, including fever, cough, runny nose, and respiratory distress whenever they go for any medical check-up.

Finally, we must always understand that our healthcare workers are our frontline warriors against the COVID-19 war. If we are unable to save them from the perils of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, then in no time hospitals and quarantine facilities will have no one to take care of patients. Let us all unite against the fight against the pandemic.

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