Coronavirus scare: Doctors work in 'suffocating raincoat-like' plastic suits

Updated: Apr 02, 2020, 08:02 IST | Diwakar Sharma, Faizan Khan | Mumbai

Complain that they perspire soon after wearing it and in the absence of a valve in the headgear, they quickly start feeling breathless

Protective gear BMC has given to the civic doctors treating patients infected with COVID-19
Protective gear BMC has given to the civic doctors treating patients infected with COVID-19

The doctors desperately awaiting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits have received 'raincoat-like' plastic made protective gear from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The PPE equipment plays a key role in keeping the healthcare staff safe while treating the patients who have contracted the novel Coronavirus.

The doctors told mid-day that the material is such that they sweat a lot few minutes into wearing it and feel suffocated as the headgear lacks a valve. "The PPE suits given to us are equivalent to plastic raincoats modified to look like hazmat suits. I feel suffocated and am sure others feel the same," said a doctor, requesting anonymity, fearing a crackdown by the BMC.

Another doctor said, "I start to perspire within minutes of wearing this PPE suit. I fear it may cause skin infection if one has to wear it for longer." Another added.

"The problem starts when you breath out as the transparent shield in the headgear fogs up and hinders visibility. Had there been a valve in the headgear, we would not have felt suffocated." "It causes giddiness on wearing it for too long," she said.

While the doctors have decided to use it nonetheless, considering the danger they are exposed to while treating the infected patients. A doctor said, "There are many medical staffers who got either infected with the COVID-19 and being quarantined or have died across the globe. So, we are bound to wear this protective suit to safeguard ourselves."

But, he added, that the gear that they have received is very much like "plastic raincoats". "It is thicker than the yellow raincoats the traffic police in Mumbai wear on duty. Just imagine wearing a thick layer of plastic suit, with no ventilation, at a time when the temperature in the city is starting to skyrocket," he added. 

Executive Health Officer Dr Padmaja Keskar did not respond to mid-day's calls.

Navy steps in to help the doctors

The Indian Navy has stepped in to help the doctors on the frontline of the fight against Coronavirus as they raise the issue of lack of safety and preventive gears. "There is a pressing need of quality protective gears for medical workers at this time. The PPE suits, which are being prepared at Naval Dockyard at mass level, is being made from a combination of canvas and cloth" which makes it breathable, said a senior defence personnel. The suits, which are in the initial stage of manufacturing, will go through various quality checks before being released to hospitals, he added.

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