When a 70-year-old patient was first treated at Mumbai’s Wockhardt Hospital suffering an emergency heart problem in mid-March, he did not signal to the doctor that he was also hiding a highly contagious virus.
It wasn’t until nine days later that previously asymptomatic patients developed a bad cough and were tested for a new coronavirus behind. the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world.
By then it was too late to protect dozens of staff and earlier this week, more than 50 doctors and nurses had tested positive at the hospital, causing him to be locked as a detention center.
Private hospitals have now become an infection hotspot in the city which is the epicenter of the earthquake Indian plague.
Doctors, nurses and paramedics throughout South Asia warn that the lack of protective equipment and the failure to test patients extensively risks making hospitals and clinics not only the care center for the sick, but also to spread the bugs that cause pneumonia.
Staff at the forefront of rising outbreaks in India and Pakistan say Telegraph that a large number of their colleagues fell ill, but personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves and dresses often lacked supply.
In addition, doctors who have publicly complained about the lack of kits have been reprimanded or even arrested.
The number of Covid-19 cases in both neighbors began to increase horribly after weeks in which health officials said they were at the peak of the outbreak. On Wednesday, India had seen 5,200 cases and 149 deaths. Pakistan has seen 4,000 cases and 54 deaths.
Cases among health care staff are increasing rapidly.
“The people who work here live in fear, they worry they have a virus and they are not sure how the virus spreads,” explained a nurse at a Delhi government hospital.
“So many doctors get it, because they treat patients every day and we don’t know whether they are positive,” added Dr Raghu Ram, president of the Association of Surgeons of India.
Research has shown that health workers are very at risk not only because of their exposure, but because of their closeness means they are more likely to take the virus in high doses and become more sick.
Dr Salman Haseeb Chaudary, president of the Association of Young Doctors in Pakistan’s worst province, Punjab, said more than 30 doctors, nurses and paramedics had tested positive in his province, even though the actual number was considered higher.
Doctors on both sides of the border said that while staff in the Covid-19 specialist ward were given PPE, on other wards, they were left without, sometimes relying on donations or emergency equipment.
“Throughout Mumbai and throughout the country we have a shortage of PPE and demand is increasing,” said Dr Beena, a doctor at a private Catholic hospital in Mumbai.
“Overall PPE kit, costs are increasing day by day. Private hospitals are managing to get them now in Mumbai but we hear that public hospitals do not have adequate supplies. “
The cost of the mask has almost quadrupled.
Lack of testing has made it unclear who is and who is not dangerous to treat. Until recently, only patients who had recently traveled abroad were considered at risk of being infected and given a test, said Dr. Beena.
Shortages have triggered strikes, protests and resignations, but medics are often given little attention by the authorities.
Riot police used batons to disperse doctor demonstrations and arrested dozens in the city of Quetta, Pakistan earlier this week, where medics demanded better protective equipment.
Opposition leaders and Amnesty International condemned the arrests in the provincial capital of Balochistan, where footage showed white coats wearing medical officers and paramedics transported to police cars. Police said protesters had been taken away because they had violated the ban on public meetings, while government officials denied there was a lack of PPE. Pakistan then tried to calm the doctors by saying the PPE distribution would be taken under federal control, while the Army also began distributing supplies.
In West Bengal India, a cancer specialist who humiliated local leaders with a social media post revealed that his colleagues made an emergency PPE from a raincoat harassed by police.
Dr Indranil Khan complained on Twitter: “Sending your doctor to fight Covid-19 in a raincoat instead of PPE is the same as sending your army to guard the border with [sticks] instead of weapons. “
A few hours later he was arrested and his phone confiscated. Police told him he was guilty of inciting communal tensions and criminal intimidation in Indian law, he said.
The Association of Hospital Doctors from the All India Medical Science Institute (AIIMS) this week wrote a letter to Narendra Modi, the prime minister, complaining that health workers were targeted for complaining of shortages.
The organization said at least 10 doctors had been threatened by police, moved or forced to resign after their criticism.
Shortage of PPE has been reported all over the world, even the richest countries are struggling to equip their frontline medics and fight about the delivery of masks and gloves.
India in early April reportedly needed 38 million masks and 6.2 million pieces of PPE to treat Covid-19 patients.
Indian manufacturers blame Delhi for being slow to place orders despite warnings of rising international demand. Most of the available quality is poor.
Dr Jyoti Joshi, head of South Asia at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, said: “When they tirelessly show up for medical work, we must ensure they are well equipped so they remain our savior and hospitals are not the focus of COVID to spread without the existence of this important equipment. “
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