Doctors recount challenges of accessing Personal Protection Equipment

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Doctors recount challenges of accessing Personal Protection Equipment

Over 500 health workers have been reported to have died from Coronavirus, a thousand others have been tested positive, some have recovered while others are on their to recovery. Lack of access to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) has a lot to do with the medics who have been infected or killed by the virus, writes JUSTINA ASISHANA.


THE webinar titled African Physicians COVID-19 Panel Discussion was attended by African doctors and health workers practising in Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They shared their challenges in getting Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others but shortages are leaving frontline workers ill-equipped to take care of the COVID-19 patients. There is a global challenge of limited supplies of the personal protective equipment which include gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and apron.

The health care system is crumbling under the strain of an expanding pandemic and governments will not be able to handle the increasing burden if doctors, nurses and other paramedics fall sick.

Based on the World Health Organisation (WHO) modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month; for the examination gloves, the figures, according to WHO, are 76 million while international demand for googles stands at 1.6 million per month.

Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings and the effective management of supply chains.

A doctor from the United States, Dr. Ona Utaama, said some doctors were using disposable and shopping bags to protect themselves. “Here, doctors use disposable bags on the head and feet because the hospital does not have enough to use and throw away daily. It is mostly used with the protective suit.”

For some of the doctors who could get the N-95 face masks, it is being treated like gold and used delicately and with care.

Dr. Ganiyat Abib from Houston said she brought an N-95 from an online store for about 57 dollars. “When they said $57, I thought I was buying 2 packets of N-95, only for me to receive two pieces of N-95. I wouldn’t say I was duped but I was desperate to have the N-95 and I am really glad I have it,” she said.

Another doctor from the U.S., Dr. Ismailia Bello, said he had been using the same N-95 for the past two weeks.

“The N-95 is very scarce that even with your money it will be difficult for you to get it. I have been using mine for the past two weeks. I wear the surgical mask on top of the N-95 and change the surgical mask regularly,” he said.

Doctors, said a medic from the UK, are contacting fashion designers to sew surgical masks for them to use.

In South Africa, according to Omotunde Erejuwa, the doctors have to buy their PPEs out of their pockets. “For your PPE, the gloves, sanitizers, infrared thermometers, N-95 and others, you have to buy them with your own money,” Erejuwa said.

He also said a lot of private practice hospitals had shut down their institutions because of lack of PPEs, adding that it would spell doom for any privately-owned hospital to have any confirmed case of COVID-19 because a positive test would result in the facility being closed. “Your practice would be closed down and you and all you, your family, staff and their families would be placed on quarantine. So to avoid any complexities, private practices have shut down,” he said.

Dr. Sabastine Tantuoyir from Ghana said: “PPE is the major challenge of health workers in Ghana and the doctors are doing their utmost best to protect themselves in order not to get infected”.

A doctor from Nigeria, who is the Team Lead of LUTH Isolation Centre, Dr. Lorhen Akase, lamented that the since the start of COVID-19 outbreak in the country, the price of surgical masks has increased while that of the M95 has skyrocketed.

On how the doctors and health workers protect themselves while attending to patients, she said: “They go in only three times daily to protect themselves and they are very careful about ensuring they equip themselves adequately when managing emergencies and situations when they are not sure of the COVID-19 status of the patient.”


Doctors recount challenges of accessing Personal Protection Equipment

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