Lucknow’s King George’s Medical University asks administration for specialised equipment week after resident doctor contracted coronavirus

Doctors at Lucknow’s prestigious King George’s Medical University, the hub of treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic in Uttar Pradesh, have asked the administration for more specialised equipment a week after a resident doctor contracted the disease. The request, however, has been turned down, the hospital claiming the equipment they have now is enough to deal with the situation.
In a letter, the Resident Doctors’ Association had written that those attending to suspected coronavirus patients at the hospital’s Out-Patient Department, are working without PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
“This threatens exposure and the community spread of COVID-19,” read the letter, addressed to the KGMU Vice-Chancellor.
A document on the website of the Indian Council of Medical Research says PPE includes gloves, laboratory coats, gowns, goggles, glasses with side shields, shoe covers and masks. Its purpose is to “prevent blood and body fluids from reaching the worker’s skin or mucous membranes,” the document read.
Coronavirus spreads through droplets from the patient released while coughing and sneezing. Some researches say in close quarters with patients as in hospital rooms, there is a chance of aerial transmission as well. In the situation, working without protective gear is highly risky, the doctors say.
On March 18, a 25-year-old junior resident tested positive for coronavirus. He is undergoing treatment at an isolation ward.
He had contracted the virus from two patients – “a woman from Canada and one of her relatives,” KGMU spokesperson Dr Sudhir Singh was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust Of India.
Subsequently, KGMU announced suspension of all under-graduate academic classes and examinations till April 2 to stem the spread of the disease inside the hospital.
The hospital administration, however, has firmly turned down the doctors’ request for protective gear.
“For doctors and paramedics involved in OPD and emergency care of patients, ‘3 ply’ mask is sufficient. According to ICMR/WHO guidelines , N-95 mask and PPE is mandatory for doctors and staff who is treating corona virus positive patients or involved in the diagnosis of COVID – 19,” read the response from Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor GP Singh.
PPE kits are being provided as per Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines to those who come in direct contact of suspected and confirmed cases in the isolation ward, the hospital said.
“As of now, 100 PPE kits are being used in the isolation ward where corona patients are admitted and in microbiology lab, where tests are done. We maintain a permanent back-up of 600 PPE kits. We also have the required number of masks,” Chief Medical Superintendent S.N. Sankhwar wa quoted as saying by news agency IANS.
“At the flu and fever clinic, all patients undergo infra-red thermal scanning done by a paramedic from a safe distance of 5 feet. Those with fever and dry cough-the signs of coronavirus-are sent to the isolation ward immediately, hence, there is no direct contact with the patient. Patients with flu, including those suspected to have swine flu, are attended to by doctors wearing masks and gloves,” he added.
The administration’s response has not satisfied the doctors.
On condition of anonymity, a resident doctor said the new Out-Patient Departments for coronavirus and flu could become the hub of transmission.
“Because this is the first point of contact with a patient, health workers are highly susceptible to infection in this zone. Any scarcity here leads to risks for us as well as patients  and their attendants,’ the doctor said.