Nursing staff working in the hospital’s isolation ward without basic safety kits, N95 masks and alcohol-based sanitisers

A nurse at a Bihar hospital begs the prime minister for her life as the state’s medical staff continues to treat suspected COVID-19 patients without protective safety kits.

Julie Kumari, a staff nurse at the Patna-based, government-run Nalanda Medical College and Hospital, took to social media to urge Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi to please save her and the hospital staff from likely death.

Julie and her colleagues work in the hospital’s isolation ward without basic safety kits, N95 masks and alcohol-based sanitisers.

‘Please, please, Modiji, hamari suniye. Hum marne wale hai. Aapne ye kaisa kit diya hai? Is se corona marij ka elaj kaise hoga? Hum nahi bach payenge (Please, please, Modiji, hear us. We are going to die. What kind of kit have you given us? How can we treat patients like this? We won’t survive.)’

An emotional Julie, in her video message from the hospital’s isolation ward for suspected coronavirus patients, requested Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to save her and her colleagues by immediately providing personal protective equipment and N95 masks.

She also questioned the quality of the common safety kit (for surgical operations and the HIV kit) given to them by the health department authorities.

‘Iski quality (referring to the common safety kits) jaisi hai woh humein corona se kisi angle se nahi bacha sakta hai. Please, please hamari request suniye. Thali bajane se hum logon ka manobal nahi badhega. Hum kaise duty karen, apni jaan gawa ke (The quality is so poor that it will not save us from the coronavirus. Please, please hear our request. Mere applause won’t bolster our confidence. How can we do our duty when we fear that we may die?)’

‘We are doing our duty despite the risk to our lives,’ Julie added. ‘But we also have families; we have children. Please provide us with a quality safety kit.’

Dozens of hospital staff nurses gheraoed the hospital superintendent on March 27, demanding safety kits.

They expressed solidarity with Julie and unhappiness over threats by the authorities of action against her for revealing her fears and the lack of quality personal protective equipment and N95 masks.

Citing the lack of necessary safety equipment, 83 junior hospital doctors have demanded that they be quarantined.

In a letter to the hospital superintendent, the junior doctors association vice-president Dr Ranvijay Bharti said there is a lack basic facilities for doctors treating suspected coronavirus patients.

“The facilities are not adequate. If junior doctors treating suspected coronavirus patients get infected, their own life will be in risk. Who is responsible for that? We have requested the hospital to keep us away treating suspected cases,” Dr Bharti said.

The Nalanda Medical College and Hospital is the second largest hospital in Bihar and the state health department has decided to turn it into a special hospital for coronavirus patients with 100 beds being reserved for suspected cases.

One hospital doctor said, “When we demanded N95 masks and PPE, the hospital authorities told us we don’t have to worry since we are not involved in the treatment of coronavirus positive cases. But we insisted because no one knows who is infected; since only two labs are testing here, the results are coming slowly.”

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