Wet PPE, N95 masks: Ambulance services struggle to cope with rain and humidity
The difficulties that Covid-19 frontline workers may face during the monsoon became evident on Wednesday when the city recorded moderate rainfall due to Cyclone Nisarga.
Employees of the government-run ambulance service provider 108 complained that personal protective equipment is difficult to work in as it gets soaked, and it is difficult to breathe through wet N95 masks.
Ambulance workers are on duty for eight to nine hours at a stretch.
On Wednesday night, an ambulance attendant had to transfer a Covid-19 patient to BYL Nair Hospital from Malad (East).
Due to bad weather, the attendant and his colleague were drenched when they stepped out of the ambulance.
“Water got inside our PPE which made it heavy. As it is non-porous, water started collecting inside. Then the safety shoe covers were also filled with water. I had to remove those,” said the attendant.
N-95 masks, which are made of non-woven polypropylene fabric, are not waterproof. Once wet, they are difficult to breathe through.
“We don’t get waterproof face shields so when the mask gets wet, we have no option but to remove it and wear a new one once inside,” said an another ambulance worker from 108. This means the ambulance workers expose themselves to infection in a contaminated area while changing masks.
Additionally, during the rain, there are issues of visibility with the goggles.
“On Wednesday, I had to get a patient from the second floor on a stretcher. But as my goggles had become foggy because of the rain, I wasn’t able to see the stairs clearly. This could have led to a mishap,” said the first ambulance attendant.
Ambulance workers are also worried that during monsoon, they will have to spend hours in the wet clothes under PPE if they get wet in the rain.
“This could lead to us catching a cold and fever. So, if we contract Covid-19, we will assume it’s a seasonal infection,” said an ambulance driver.
Dnyaneshwar Shelke, who heads the government-run ambulance service, said talks were on with medical experts to figure out solutions.
“We have to see how the employees can use raincoats over PPE. Also, we are trying to bring reusable PPE kits in Wardha. If the expert panel approves it, we will standardise it across the state,” he said.
At present, the service runs around 60 ambulances to ferry Covid-19 patients in the city.