Docs seek more protective equipment

Kathmandu, March 20

The Nepal Medical Association has called on the government to make personal protective equipment available to health practitioners across the country, stating that lack of PPE has put lives of doctors and nurses, who are on the frontline of the fight against possible outbreak of coronavirus disease, at risk.

The call from NMA comes at a time when government has a stock of about 700 PPE that may not last a day if the number of coronavirus cases surges.

“Doctors and other health workers are preparing to deal with the situation of possible outbreak of the deadly disease. But they need sufficient PPE to protect themselves. Unless there is an assurance of personal safety, health practitioners will not be motivated to treat patients,” said NMA President Lochan Karki.

At Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, for example, doctors are using safety equipment used during surgeries to protect themselves from possible coronavirus contamination. “We are doing this because we do not have PPE,” said Prem Krishna Khadga, the hospital’s executive director. “If this continues, health practitioners will turn into sources of infection. And there are examples of health practitioners getting infected across the world. If we are to protect our health workers, the government must provide adequate number of PPE as soon as possible.”

Doctors fear that lack of safety gear, such as PPE, may encourage health practitioners to play truant in case of a crisis.

“Many health workers fear getting contaminated by coronavirus disease. So, proper counselling of the entire medical team is necessary,” said Kedar Century, director, Bir Hospital, adding, “We have only given orientation to our staff on management of the disease, explaining what coronavirus disease is and its symptoms,” said Kedar Century.

Any chance of contracting the infection will work as a disincentive for health practitioners, according to Karki. “So, proper counselling and refresher courses on treatment of patients during emergencies are necessary. Otherwise, health workers may flee when there is an emergency situation,” said the head of the NMA, which has also urged the public not to visit hospitals unless there is an emergency and asked health workers and hospitals not to conduct any health camps to contain the possible spread of coronavirus disease.

The Department of Health Services has initiated the process of procuring 30,000 PPE. “They will be made available to public and private hospitals beginning Tuesday,” said Bhogendra Dotel, director of Logistics Management Division at the department.

“We’ll also ask donors to supply PPE and other kits,” said Bikash Devkota, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population.