Some local organizations volunteer to produce PPE
Doctors are finding it hard to treat patients properly for the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) amid an increasing number of suspected Covid-19 patients.
The few one-time-use imported PPE which were available in the market are no longer there as people have already bought them.
To address the dearth to some extent, some volunteer organizations have taken initiatives to manufacture PPE locally.
Doctors using raincoats in place of PPE
A doctor, Enamul Kabir Khan, posted a photo on his Facebook page in which he is on emergency duty wearing a raincoat.
"Emergency duty. May Allah save us all," the post reads, adding that the PPE given by the government was of the worst quality.
Contacted, he said: "I bought a PPE for Tk1,600 for personal use. I wear a raincoat over it so that I can keep this PPE clean and can reuse it since there are not enough PPE in the country."
Masud Hasan, a medical officer at a private clinic, posted: "Allah Bhorosa. I started duty with a raincoat and enough sanitizer; keep me in your prayers. I left home making my family sad.
"We are not in good condition. I bought one PPE but one piece is not enough for regular duty, ‘cause everyday I have to change or disinfect after seeing one Covid-19 patient. Since we do not have enough PPE, we have to reuse these, which is risky."
Abul Kalam, a raincoat seller, said: "Nowadays doctors are coming to buy raincoats. The crowd is growing everyday."
Locally produced PPE to beat the crisis
Some organizations have risen to the occasion, producing PPE locally.
A volunteer organization, Bidyanondo Foundation, has already made 1,000 PPEs and distributed around 250 of them to doctors.
“There are around 90,000 doctors across the country who need PPE. Everyday hundreds of people are contacting us for PPE. But we are unable to make PPE on a large scale for lack of funds,” said Salman Khan Yeasin, leader of Dhaka zone, Bidyanondo.
Zahead Kamal, who is producing PPE, said: “I have already delivered 7,000 PPEs to some ministry. But I don't know for whom they took those. I received a huge order, but due to a manpower crisis, I can't receive all orders at a time.”
Like them, some others have come forward to produce PPE locally.
How protective local PPEs are
Although they are making PPEs locally, day and night, doctors and concerned people have observed that these PPEs are not suitable for doctors dealing with ICU and Covid-19 patients.
The locally made PPE has huge demand, but Bidyanondo said their PPE is not suitable for use in the ICU or for those dealing with Covid-19 patients directly.
"This PPE is made of parachute cloth which can protect from air and water. It cannot protect from viruses perfectly. Doctors who don't work for Covid-19 patients or in the ICU can use this," said Salman.
"A lot of processing is involved in making suitable PPE for ICU doctors. It should have testing and other options. It is not possible to make them in Bangladesh. Yet, we have talked to the doctors and health ministry about this. If we get the logistic support, we can produce the right PPE, I hope," he said.
Zahead Kamal also said the same thing.
"You can't use this PPE for ICU or if you treat coronavirus affected patients,” he said.
“Our local product is not that bad. If the government helps them with necessary equipment, they can manufacture virus-protective PPE,” said Professor AKM Akhtaruzzaman, chairman, Department of Anesthesia, Intensive Care and Pain Medicine, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
When asked about using raincoats, he said:“Raincoats never protect from viruses. Using raincoats is risky for both doctors and patients.”
"One-time use of a PPE is perfect for treating Covid-19 patients and for the ICU. But after using it once it should not be reused. There are some disposal rules so that no one can touch it," he said.
Acclaimed medicine specialist and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician, Dr ABM Abdullah, said: "A PPE should be made in a scientific way. It should be a package comprising goggles, hand gloves, cap, and face mask. Since we have a lack of PPE, the locally made PPE can be used for the time being."
He added that the general populace did not need to use PPE.
Ahmed Ali, a businessman, who came to Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Bhaban to buy PPE, said: "I have to go outside everyday and come in contact with my employees and clients. I can't stop them, so for my safety, I bought a PPE."