Health workers fear getting infected due to short supply of protective gears in Indian Occupied Kashmir

“It’s crucial for health care workers, doctors and nurses on the frontline of the disease to have the proper protective gear to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19 but due to short supply, many front health line workers are not getting the same,” official sources said.
They said supply is not only short in peripheries but also in city hospitals including Government Medical College Jammu, where there are not enough stock of masks and sanitizers. Though experts recommend only N-95 masks for frontline workers but these are not available at all and triple-layer masks are being provided to doctors and surgical masks to other paramedical staff including nursing staff.
According to the experts, a surgical mask becomes unsafe to wear beyond 4 hours while an N-95 mask can be worn up to 8 hours but many doctors and paramedics alleged that they are being asked by the authorities to re-use the masks as they have no adequate stock.
“No doctor or nurse will want to treat a patient, knowing that he/she is not fully protected but risking their lives they are still performing their duties even some times in double shift but authorities are not even providing them proper transport facilities,” a nurse of GMC Jammu said.
She said that two-days back two of her colleagues who come daily from Kathua were asked by the authorities to stay at AMT School where food and other facilities will be provided to them as they cannot provide them transport facility up to Kathua but when they stayed here, they had to live whole night without food and water and one of them who was 6-month pregnant had to be shifted in SMGS Hospital as she fell sick..
A health worker of Government Gandhi Nagar Hospital alleged that there is nowhere near enough PPE in the fight against COVID-19 – a shortage that endangers patients and jeopardizes the entire response to this virus.
“Hospitals don’t have enough masks; doctors and paramedical staff are wearing a single mask all day, cleaning them at home, and sewing their own protective gear,” he said, adding there is enough stock available but the hospital administration is not providing them adequately.
“Health staff engaged in emergency duties and those deployed at quarantine centers are being given masks and sanitizers while other staff on OPD and routine IPD duties are not being given masks,” said a doctor at District Hospital Samba.
He said nobody knows which person is carrying this dreaded virus with him so every person visiting the Hospital is suspect for them but as all health workers are not getting masks from hospital authorities they are themselves buying these from the market to protect them.
“A doctor/health worker if gets infected with Coronavirus, he may transmit the same in thousands of people that came in contact with him in hospital,” a senior nurse posted at District Hospital Reasi said. She added that authorities are also aware of the fact but they are helpless in view of short supply as demand has increased globally.
She said staff only on emergency duties is being provided masks while others are either purchasing on their own or using handkerchiefs to protect them. She further added that the emerging problem over the quality and quantity of protective gear is also a major challenge as the number of infected people is expected to grow rapidly in coming weeks.
NHM employees deployed at a quarantine center in Rajouri district said they are at high risk of getting infected with COVID-19 but despite that they have not been given full protective gears. Authorities have provided us only gloves, masks and hand sanitizers and no eye-protection or full body gown, he added.
A doctor of DH Udhampur told Excelsior that on the name of protective gear, doctors are being given surgical masks while paramedical staff is bound to wear hand-made masks donated by an NGO, which are ineffective against COVID-19.
“Doctors and nurses treating suspected or confirmed Coronavirus patients need to wear N-95 masks which are designed to filter out about 95% of small airborne particles but we are getting only triple-layer or surgical masks,” he added.
Respiratory masks are considered superior because they provide a custom fit and block the virus when it is aerosolized, such as during an intubation. Surgical masks don’t form a seal around the face and aren’t as effective at blocking tiny droplets.
A paramedic posted at DH Doda said that they are working without proper protective gear. “Though surgical masks are being given to us but they are not effective when compared to N-95 masks which provide a custom fit and block the virus when it is aerosolized, such as during an intubation. Surgical masks don’t form a seal around the face and aren’t as effective at blocking tiny droplets,” he added.
There are no body gowns and now N-95 masks are completely gone, a health worker posted at DH Poonch said. He added the administrators are adamant that surgical masks will be enough to protect the staff from COVID-19. “The denial is really frustrating and risking health workers lives,” he said.
Financial Commissioner, Health and Medical Education, J&K, Atal Dulloo, when contacted, said, “Globally there is shortage of masks, sanitizers, PPEs, testing kits, etc but we are still at good position as there is no severe shortage as is being witnessed in other countries.
“Just about 3-4 days back, we got 5 lakh triple layer masks and 4.5 lakh today. Also, we received 10000 N-95 masks and 80,000 bottles (of 500 ml each) of hand sanitizers. Only yesterday, we distributed 2000 PPEs equally both in Jammu and Srinagar province and to ensure that there is no shortage of testing kits, we airlifted 5000 testing reagents on state plane from NCDC Delhi,” the Financial Commissioner claimed.
He said that they are regularly placing orders for masks, sanitizers and other essentials on regular basis to overcome any type of shortage as safety and good health of health workers is their priority as without their safety they (health authorities) cannot think of coming out of this extraordinary situation arisen due to Coronavirus.
When contacted, Director Health Services Jammu, Dr Renu Sharma said that there is some shortage of masks and sanitizers but now we are getting some supply of triple layer masks from J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Limited. However, she said there is still shortage of hand sanitizers.
She said as per guidelines, N-95 masks are recommended only for those doctors and paramedical staff which treat COVID-19 positive patients or suspects and come in contact with them, and we are providing the same to those as they are not available in bulk.
“We are providing masks and sanitizers as per the demand. As now there is more demand in Rajouri due to detection of some positive cases, we have increased the supply there,” she said, adding, CMOs have also been allocated adequate funds for purchase of masks, sanitizers, gloves and other essential items.

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