'Have To Wear Sanitary Pad With Diaper': Women Doctors Donning PPE Kits While Treating COVID Patients

Once a health worker dons a PPE, they cannot remove it till the time they are working which means wearing the suit for a long period of time which even restricts visit to washrooms.

India   |   31 Aug 2020 9:33 AM GMT
Writer : Palak Agrawal | Editor : Shubhendu Deshmukh | Creatives : Abhishek M
Have To Wear Sanitary Pad With Diaper: Women Doctors Donning PPE Kits While Treating COVID Patients

Image Credits: Punjab Kesari

India reported 78,512 new novel coronavirus infections on Monday, August 31 with the total caseloads rising to 36,21,246.

Meanwhile, with 971 new deaths, the cumulative death toll reached 64,469. The doctors and the health care workers who have been on the frontline combatting the coronavirus outbreak in the country have been facing several challenges while discharging their duties particularly the female professionals.

One of the significant issues that the doctors have been dealing with while treating the patients infected with COVID-19 is the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which has been made mandatory for medical staff assigned to COVID-19 dedicated wards.

PPE comprises of a set of equipment including a gown or coverall for the body, a headcover, goggles, facemask, face shield, hand gloves and rubber boots for the feet.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the protective equipment is most important in preventing transmission of the virus.

WHO has also issued guidelines while donning and doffing a PPE due to its exposure to virus-proximities and act as a possible carrier of the virus.

What adds to the challenges for the health staff is that these layers of protective kit restrict the basic human activities. Once a health worker dons a PPE, they cannot remove it till the time they are working which means wearing the suit for a long period. It also restricts visits to the washrooms due to which the health care workers avoid drinking fluids or eating. This is why many of them have resorted to wearing adult diapers under their kits. Additionally, removing the mask for any activity is entirely prohibited.

These restrictions prove to be unfavourable for the female doctors and nurses tending to patients in the COVID-19 wards.

Highlighting the issues that such health professionals experience on a day-to-day basis, Dr Jaslovleen Kaur who is a neurologist at Paras Hospital in Panchkula said, "We usually wear a diaper for passing urine."

Speaking to The Indian Express, the doctor stated that she has to wear a PPE for eight hours straight regularly. She pointed out that the difficulties increasing manifold when they menstruate.

"When you are menstruating, you are wearing a sanitary pad along with a diaper, and you cannot even change it for eight hours. So we take extra precautions. I have never used XL sanitary pads or tampons in my life but now I have to wear them. With a tampon particularly, it is a little more comfortable to wear a diaper," Dr Kaur explained.

Recalling her training days, the doctor said that women faced similar issues, however, there have been times when they could not use a washroom due to the lack of availability and are aware of these situations but the virus-outbreak has made things worse.

With increasing cases, there have been added responsibilities for those in the forefront fighting to curb the transmission of the disease.

"We cannot ever say 'no' to escape the situation when we are on our periods. I have never taken leave because of it because women are already looked down upon as the "weaker sex"; taking leave for periods would all the more make it look like we are not competent enough. But yes, I would perhaps take leave only if I am not at all in a condition to perform my duties," she added.

A survey on the women working in health and social care in the UK has revealed the coronavirus pandemic is taking a "significant toll" on them.

It found that 72 per cent of respondents believed their job was having a greater negative impact than usual on their mental wellbeing as a result of COVID-19, while 5 per cent said the same for their physical health.

"The environment inside the PPE is very hot and humid. And since you do not get to change your pad for six to eight hours, the humidity and heat can lead to infection in the genital tract," said Dr Richa Sareen, consultant, Pulmonology and Critical Care Medicine, Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj.

She further added that taking necessary precautions including a sanitary pad or a tampon for a longer duration adds to the risk of health complications for such women. Periods entail mood swings, irritability, drowsiness and a whole bunch of issues that affect behaviour and psyche.

"There have been instances where some of my colleagues started menstruating in the PPE. So it is a choice between wasting a PPE or continues wearing it. But of course, you cannot keep wearing the soiled PPE and have to remove it," she said.

Being a COVID-19 survivor herself, Dr Sareen shared her experience of donning the kit after resuming her duties at the hospital.

"I started sweating very badly when I donned the PPE for the first time. By the end of one's shift, the clothes you wear are soaking wet with sweat. This also causes dehydration with no water intake," she shared.

Arati Madhavi working as a nursing manager with Suasth Hospital in Navi Mumbai shared the difficulties she has been facing since the outbreak. While menstruating, one gets irritable if they experience heavy bleeding or period cramps. She said that wearing PPE for six hours when they cannot eat or drink makes them feel more fatigued.

"When we are suffering, how do we give our 100 per cent to the patient?" she questioned.

Also Read: PM Modi's 'Mann Ki Baat' Becomes Most Disliked Video On BJP's YouTube Channel Amid Outrage Over NEET, JEE

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Palak Agrawal

Palak Agrawal

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Palak a journalism graduate believes in simplifying the complicated and writing about the extraordinary lives of ordinary people. She calls herself a " hodophile" or in layman words- a person who loves to travel.

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