Men of steel: Covered in plastic, healthcare warriors share experience in PPE kits

Men of steel: Covered in plastic, healthcare warriors share experience in PPE kits

No plastic people: Health employees wear personal protective equipment before attending Covid patients at the Civil Hospital in Amritsar on Saturday. Photos: Sunil kumar

Manmeet Singh Gill

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, August 8

Imagine covering yourself in plastic from head to toe for eight or more hours everyday and then sit in a room with only a fan and no air conditioner. That is what most of the healthcare workers have to go through as they collect samples, attend to infected patients and perform other duties while wearing a PPE kit.

“You do not even cover yourself in plastic. Just switch off the air conditioner and wrap a bed sheet around your body. Just do it for an hour or two and you would get to know how uncomfortable it is,” said a health worker when asked how it is to be inside a PPE kit.

The frontliners complained that sample collection centres and patients’ wards do not have air conditioners. The wards have ceiling fans and air coolers. But AC’s haven’t been working for a few years now.

“After an hour or two inside the PPE kit, you can feel the sweat inside your shoes and gloves. It is like you are swimming in a pool of sweat. It is suffocating and itches all over the body but you cannot scratch,” a health worker engaged in collecting swab samples said.

At the swab sample collection centres, the employees in order to decrease their trouble try to complete all the paperwork so they do not have to stand for long in glass cabins to take swab samples. They try to sample all those persons in one go whose paperwork has been completed.

However, at the Covid wards PPE kits have to worn for longer durations. The employees stated that once they are all covered in plastic, they cannot use washroom, drink water or have meals. The high temperature and humidity in air makes the condition even worse.

Sample taking, collection and testing

The district has 27 swab sample collection centres. On an average, around 1200-1300 samples are collected everyday from all these centres. A medical lab technician may take swabs of around 30 to 70 suspected patients a day. The samples from entire district are then collected at the Jallianwala Bagh Martyrs Memorial Civil Hospital from where they are sent to microbiology lab of Government Medical College (GMC) for testing. The reports tagged as urgent (particulary health workers or police personnel) are received within 24 hours, while the reports of remaining are available in maximum of 48 hours. Luckily, no employee engaged in sample collection task has tested positive so far. Apart from the GMC lab, the testing is also done by Sri Guru Ram Das University of Health sciences.

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