At SKIMS, doctors skip lunch breaks to save PPE kits

Shortage of hand gloves puts patients at risk

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Apr 6: To avoid shortage of Personnel Protection Equipment (PPE) the doctors at Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science (SKIMS) work non-stop for 8-long hours without having food and water in a single protective gear.
The majority of the doctors who perform their duties at the COVID-19 Out Patient Department (OPD) of the hospital choose not to eat anything in their 8-hour long shifts and all this is being done to avoid mandatory suite change after every break.
They said although hospital administration has made extra-suits available for breaks, they prefer not to wear them keeping in view the overall shortage of protective gear in hospitals. “Everyone knows the status of the protective gear. By saving suits we are doing service to ourselves first and then to others. We are fighting on the frontline and have a bigger role to play,” a doctor said.
A lady doctor said that she stops eating an hour before leaving for the hospital to avoid the bathrooms breaks as well. “Going to bathrooms means a change of suit and we cannot afford that. We have to train ourselves for this challenge. We have to face a lot of difficulties in achieving the desired results but a doctor’s job is full of such challenges,” she said, adding against the suffering of people in the world their hardships are small.
In a single sift there are around four doctors in the OPD comprising of two physicians and two virologists. The OPD receives over 20 suspected COVID-19 patients in a single shift every day. “Upon arrival the physicians keenly examine the patients and, if needed, the virologist takes the samples. The samples then go to the lab to get tested,” he said, adding the whole process is being done with extra-care and as per the recommended guidelines.
The doctors, however, expressed helplessness when it comes to dealing with the shortage of the gloves. “We feel helpless. Technically, we have to change our gloves after every patient but we are unable to do so due to their shortage,” a doctor said.
Use of single gloves for multiple patients, a doctor said, puts normal patients at risk of contracting the disease. “While taking samples the patients often cough. It can spread the infection. Because of shortage, we change our gloves after examining 4-5 patients,” a doctor said.
The challenges are not restricted to the hospital, a doctor said the real battle begins after reaching home. “I self-isolate myself and avoid contact with my family. I kind of keep myself in-home quarantine,” a doctor said, adding taking the infection home is the last thing a doctor would want.