Resident doctors appeal for protective gear even as number of COVID-19 cases keeps rising

Published : April 07, 2020 14:32 IST

A medical worker helps a suspected coronavirus patient, both wearing protective suits, move to the isolation ward of Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi. Photo: Vijay Verma/PTI

The total number of COVID-19-related fatalities in the country went up to 109 on April 6, with 30 deaths reported in a 24-hour period. The number of confirmed cases totalled 4,067 with 693 additions over the previous 24-hour period. At the joint press briefing of the Ministries of Health and Home, it was stated that 1,445 cases were related to the Tablighi Jamaat members who had assembled in Delhi in early March for a meeting.

The Home Ministry spokesperson said some 25,500 Tablighi Jamaat members had been quarantined all over the country. Three villages in Haryana, where some of them had stayed had been “sealed and quarantined”, the official said.

On April 6, the number of cases in Maharashtra totalled 868, a sharp rise from 220 in the end of March. An assessment of data from the State shows that Mumbai and Thane accounted for 611 cases (526 in Mumbai and 85 in Thane), making that metropolitan region one of the worst affected. Most of the confirmed cases in Maharashtra have been coming from Dharavi in Mumbai. In sharp contrast, Kerala, which had a similar number of cases as Maharashtra in the end of March, now has just 327 cases. The number of deaths in Kerala is two compared with over 52 in Maharashtra.

The issue of unauthorised manufacture of rapid diagnostic kits was raised at the briefing by mediapersons, who pointed out that a Bengaluru-based company, Bionics Ventures Private Limited, was found advertising for Rapid Single Use Finger Prick tests without proper authorisation. The company had advertised for a COVID-19 screening kit, a genetic susceptibility kit and a Microbiome kit for the elderly, all highly priced. The All India Drug Action Network wrote to the Union Health Ministry and demanded that the list of all the companies authorised to make diagnostic kits be made public. Following this, the Ministry issued a statement, on April 5, that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization had not authorised the Bengaluru-based company. It also made public the list of companies authorised to make testing kits.

Meanwhile, the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) of Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi has issued a general appeal to donors for PPEs and other consumables. The letter states that while the 807-bed superspecialty block had been converted into a COVID Block, “the demand for personal protective equipment and consumables was surpassing the supply”. The RDA wrote: “We are in dire need of the following; 50,000 PPE (Hazmat suits) kits; 50,000 N 95 masks; three lakh triple layer masks and ten thousand 500 ml bottles”. Previously, contractual doctors in another Delhi hospital threatened to resign over similar issues.

Health providers in several other places have expressed similar apprehensions to their safety. On March 30, in a letter to the Director, Directorate of Medical Education, the Telangana Junior Doctors’ Association wrote that they would observe “silent boycott of duties” as their demands for PPE, transportation for health care providers, prophylaxis for such providers as per ICMR guidelines, and nearby accommodation for isolation ward doctors had not been met. “We will come to the respective departments but not attend duties,” they wrote.

Shortfalls persist and health workers continue to get exposed as was the case in a leading private hospital in Mumbai where nearly four dozen nurses got infected. For now, the demand for PPE is growing and the government seems to have made arrangements by resorting to imports and sourcing from domestic manufacturers.

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