The lack of proper masks, gowns, and eye gear is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus - and putting their own lives at risk. With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses, and other front-line medical workers across the Globe are confronting a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns, and eye gear to protect them from the virus.
Interviews taken on doctors around the world, said they were increasingly anxious, fearing they could expose not only themselves to the virus but their families and others.
“There’s absolutely no way to protect me, said Dr. Faezah A. Bux, an anesthesiologist in central Kentucky who in recent days had to intubate several elderly patients in respiratory distress without the respirator masks and protective eye gear recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not only can I not protect myself, but I also can’t protect my patients.”
“We are at war with no ammo,” said a surgeon in Fresno, Calif., who said she had no access to even the most basic surgical masks in her outpatient clinic and has a limited supply of the tight-fitting respirator masks in the operating room. As many doctors interviewed, she asked not to be quoted by name, worried about retribution from administrators for speaking out.
Many doctors and nurses say their fears and frustrations have been compounded by guidance from the C.D.C. that they consider unclear and misleading. Recently it changed its guidance to say that regular surgical masks are “an acceptable alternative” when examining or treating a coronavirus patient. The change came given the shortages of the special N95 respirator masks. They get their name because they can filter out 95 percent of all airborne particles when used correctly.
The agency says that such masks remain essential for doctors during intubations, which involve inserting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat. It is a procedure that can more easily spread disease.
While some infectious disease doctors defend the guidelines - noting that surgical masks and protective eyewear are sufficient for everyday patient exchanges - others argue the new recommendations are borne of political expediency instead of science. The American Nurses Association said the guidelines were creating confusion among its members over how to stay safe.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions, and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first"
So the Governments should develop incentives for the industry to ramp up production. This includes easing restrictions on the export and distribution of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.