Doctors in Kolkata Medical College & Hospital (MCH) and the Beleghata ID (Infectious Disease) Hospital, are disappointed with the allotment of plastic raincoats in the name of hazmat suits. As the number of coronavirus cases increase with each passing day, safety of health workers in the frontlines is becoming a cause of concern for the state as well as the central government.
The state health department is facing a shortage of gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors and healthcare workers, according to a report by Times of India. To meet the increase in demands, the hospitals have started arming them with raincoats instead of sophisticated PPE kits or hazmat suits.
According to some virologists, plastic raincoats can provide protection against viruses incase the raincoat covers the neck and upper portion of the shoulder completely.
However, conventional raincoats do not provide such protection and the virologists suggest that if used while treating a COVID-19 patient, the raincoats should be discarded after 4-5 hours of usage.
On the other hand, doctors at the MCH expressed their disappointment with the current situation. Most of them were apprehensive about using the raincoats and stated that if anyone of the health officials get infected in the treatment process, the overall morale of the healthcare fraternity will go down.
A microbiologist at Peerless hospital stated that PPEs were also made of plastic material but were thicker and tough compared to a layman's raincoat. Hence, a basic raincoat can also provide protection but it needs to be made from a thicker plastic.
Several microbiologists have also suggested wearing a surgical gown underneath a raincoat can help the cause. The surgical gowns should be then disinfected with either sodium hydrochloride or bleaching power solution before it goes for laundry.
However, many medics stated that it violates WHO guildeline and raincoats should not be a substitute for PPEs.
Apart from India, Indonesia is the only country that allocated raincoats to doctors and healthcare workers to treat coronavirus patients. However, they were heavily modified to approximate hazmat suits.
Last week, the Union Textiles Ministry and the Health Ministry said the government is augmenting the supplies of personal protective equipments (PPEs), including body coveralls, N-95 masks and 2-ply/3-ply surgical masks.