"Send the N-95 masks and PPEs to our graves,” said a placard shown on the Facebook page of Medicos United, highlighting the crippling shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for medical workers including doctors, nurses and paramedics who are in the forefront of the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Reports have come in from every state on the frightening scenario. In Bihar, 83 junior doctors of the Nalanda Medical College and Hospital in Patna, a designated Covid-19 hospital, have sought home quarantine as they fear falling ill after attending to patients with no protective gear. More than 800 Delhi residents have been asked to go on home quarantine after the doctor whom they consulted tested positive for the disease. Doctors in a Bengaluru hospital say they have been asked to wear the face mask for up to 15 hours, nullifying the very purpose of it.
Every medical person is very precious for India which has only 7.77 doctors for 10,000 people against China’s 17.85, Italy’s 40.93 and Spain’s 40.69, the last three being the worst impacted by the pandemic. If the two European countries have not been able to even attend to their sick, leave alone treat, despite their medical might, India stands little chance in the deadly fight. The sad fact is that the Indian government which asked all Indians to clap their hands and plates to honour the medical professionals has done little to equip them for the war. It did little planning for the war and woke too late and floated a global tender last week for one million coveralls and goggles, four million N-95 masks, two million nitrile gloves, 6,00,000 face shields and two million triple-layer surgical masks when the World Health Organisation has already issued a warning about shortage. The government should not leave it to the bureaucratic wisdom to procure the essential tools for this decisive battle but relax the procedure and procure them at the earliest instead.