The lack of enough adequate personal protective equipment for healthcare workers serving as front-of-the-line defense against the coronavirus outbreak has been a cause for serious concern even since the early days of COVID-19 starting to sweep across the world.
Photos and accounts of nurses and doctors being forced to reuse masks and hack whatever objects happen to be around into something resembling protective gear have been circulating the internet for at least the last two months.
Unfortunately, that means these images date back long enough that we can now trace the toll this lack of equipment has had on some of these very same medical professionals who have ben working to save the lives of COVID-19 patients. And some of the news isn’t great.
Three nurses who shared a photo back in March of the trash bags they were wearing over their clothes because they didn’t have the proper PPE have now all tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Telegraph.
All three work at Northwick Park Hospital in London, which was the first hospital in the UK to report a shortage of protective gear for its workers.
The original photos circulating showed the nurses covering their faces with masks and their hands with gloves, but they had bags over their clothes and heads, as they tried desperately to protect themselves from coming into contact with the novel coronavirus while treating sick patients.
According to the Telegraph, more than 50% of the staff in one ward of the hospital have contracted the virus at this point in time.
Failing to provide healthcare workers with appropriate equipment will only contribute to the hospitals getting overwhelmed.
The United Kingdom has over 65,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and nearly 8,000 deaths so far, though some warn that number could actually be underreported.
It’s unclear what percentage of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus are required to spend time in the hospital, but visits can last up to three weeks in some cases. An increase in hospital patients requires an increase in medical personnel to attend to them, but when a shortage of protective gear leads to nurses and doctors getting sick themselves, there are naturally fewer professionals available to treat the patients.
The shortage of PPE isn’t limited to London.
The rest of the UK has struggled to provide healthcare workers with appropriate gear, and American states have desperately been trying to come up with the supplies needed to keep staff safe and patients treated.
Sending dedicated healthcare workers into the fray to work with patients without appropriate ways to keep them safe from becoming infected themselves is unforgivable. These three nurses aren’t the first infected due to a lack of appropriate gear, and won’t be the last. Governments everywhere allowing this to happen need to step up — and soon.