As the coronavirus continues, causing worldwide distress, hospitals around the world are having problems with their resources especially in the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment or PPE.
In the Philippines, COVID-19 frontliners and medical workers in St. Jude Hospital in the City of Los Baños, Laguna were photographed using ordinary plastic bags and garbage bags as face covers and protective suits, respectively.
The photos of the workers were uploaded by a worker in the hospital on Facebook, showing how they were forced to improvise their own PPEs while being in the front lines of the battle against coronavirus due to the limited supply.
In the post by Tes Despano, a worker at the hospital, she called out to the country's Department of Health (DOH) and to other agencies to provide them with proper PPEs. She also said that their supplies are already becoming scarce and they cannot find any more suppliers where they can buy or acquire said equipment.
She also expressed her gratitude to the medical workers who were dedicated to combat this outbreak despite the deficiencies and challenges.
Why is there a shortage in PPEs?
Director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health-University of the Philippines Manila (NIH-UP Manila), Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, said that before the outbreak hospitals have adequate supply of PPEs. However, due to the sudden surge of patients, there is the need to assume that they could be infected with the novel coronavirus leading to the increase in the usage of PPE which resulted to the current shortage.
Dr. Salvana also pointed out that one COVID-19 patient needs at least 12 full sets of PPE in a single day. Six sets needed for the nurse who will monitor the patient every four hours, three sets for the resident doctor who checks on the patients, one set for the supervising consultant, another set for the X-ray Technologist, and one for the Laboratory personnel. Thus, with the influx of patients, she noted that event the most well-stocked hospitals will be depleted of supply in a matter of days.
According to Dr. Mediadora Saniel, President of the University of the Philippines Medical Foundation, Inc., a hospital with 1,000 healthcare workers will need an estimated number of 90,000 face masks; 2,500 N95 masks; 5,000 surgical gloves; 2,500 hoods; 2,500 gowns; 2,500 caps and at least 300 gallons of alcohol in one month.
Hence, with this number, the UP- Philippine General Hospital alone will need four times this supply in one month since they have at least 4,000 healthcare workers, according to Dr. Regina Berba, an infectious disease doctor.
Filipinos find ways to improvise
In other parts of the Philippines, the scarcity of face masks and PPEs has also affected frontliners, especially in the health sector. However, Filipinos have found ways to improvise and use available resources in efforts to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
On March 15, a post-grad intern at West Visayas State University Medical Center (Don Benito) in Iloilo City, Rhona MacEachen shared how they were forced to wear washable face masks instead of surgical masks.
This scarcity in resources has pushed doctors to make and improvise reusable face shields instead, using acetate plastic sheets, elastic bands, and double-sided tapes.