Published on April 29, 2020
AHMEDABAD: For Bharat Makwana, a constable with the Dariapur police station, every patrol in the Covid-19 hotspot entails an elaborate ritual —donning personal protection equipment (PPE).
“It takes 15-20 minutes to wear the kit properly. Someone helps put on the coverall from the legs to the head,” Makwana said. “Then come the cover for shoes, gloves, and goggles. Once in the kit, we have to work for at least for 3-4 hours.” Duties include patrolling, ensuring the lockdown, and frequently offering assistance to medical team visiting the hotspots.
“It’s a new experience for us and it gets hot quickly. But we know that PPE is vital for our protection,” Makwana said.
On Tuesday, the city’s maximum temperature reached 41.8°C. But unlike people at home, frontline health workers and law enforcers can’t slip into loose cotton clothes. PPE keeps them safe at a cost — ventilation problems cause distress.
A junior doctor at the 1,200-bed Covid facility at Civil Hospital said that getting in and out of the kits is cumbersome. “Due to the paucity of kits, we generally wear one for a six-hour shift continuously,” the doctor said. “We can’t use the toilet while wearing the kit. It is stuffy inside and sweat starts accumulating, especially near the edges. Soaking powder doesn’t work after a point.”
The doctor went on to say: “We know that it’s the only protection which helps us carry out our work efficiently.” The doctor is reconciled to long hours in the kit this summer. “We have to moisturize copiously after removing the kit,” the doctor said.
Dr J P Modi, in-charge superintendent of Civil Hospital, said that many doctors now bring two pairs of clothing: one for the PPE and another for general wear. Excessive perspiration is caused by the kits.
Warriors sweat it out in PPE
Dr J P Modi, in-charge superintendent of Civil Hospital says, “We have allowed the staff to come out of the ward periodically if it gets stuffy. But our staff has relentlessly worked with the patients,” Modi said. “We have reduced the working hours for frontline workers so that they get some respite.”
The situation is similar for paramedical staff, health department officials on the field, and other staff members. For the city cops, the constant movement in heat with PPE often results in dehydration. Vasim Saiyad, an LRD jawan with the Dariapur police station, said that a regular supply of lemon juice and drinking water has been organized for personnel in PPE. “After a shift, when we remove the gloves, it feels as though the hands have been in water for hours,” he said.
Ashish Bhatia, the city police commissioner, said that protection of the staff is of utmost importance. “We earlier had a PPE variant with three-fourth of a gown where a part of the legs was exposed,” he said. “We got the gear changed for full protection. We have designed protocols to ensure that the staff doesn’t have to wear PPE for too long.”