CONSULTANT anaesthesiologist at the St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital, Dr Peter Scarlett, says the correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by health professionals during the novel coronavirus pandemic is imperative to safeguarding their well-being.
Dr Scarlett explained that as a physician working in the operating theatre, he has concerns for his own safety. But he said that once the guidelines are followed, neither he nor his colleagues should have major challenges.
He pointed out that while there are concerns regarding infectious diseases generally, issues relating to COVID-19 would be the major cause of some uncertainty resonating among his peers.
“As a physician, I wouldn’t say I have fears… but I have concerns because any sort of infectious disease is something that you have to take seriously,” Dr Scarlett said.
He noted that COVID-19 is new and that the level of concern has heightened because very little is known about it.
“I think what mitigates or prevents the concern from becoming fear is knowledge in the first instance, then acting on that knowledge. From early days, we heard how this virus is transmitted and what you need to do to protect yourself. We know that it is transmitted through droplets and possibly through aerosol; and to protect yourself you need the right PPE,” he said.
“Sadly, in many hospitals across the world, our colleagues, doctors and nurses, and hospital workers have become infected and it is largely because they never had the appropriate PPE even in the most developed countries,” he added.
Dr Scarlett explained how PPE protects those on the front line from being infected in different ways.
“If you’re thinking about the respiratory tract, the first thing that you need to do is prevent yourself from getting that virus in your respiratory system through breathing, and that’s the beauty about the mask,” he says.
The consultant anaesthesiologist indicatef that the N95 mask is a special respirator that filters up to 99.9 per cent of viral particles.
“So if I am wearing one, and I am interviewing or examining a COVID patient, I know that this will protect me from inhaling it by filtering out the virus,” he pointed out. Dr Scarlett noted, however, that this is only part of the required PPE, pointing out that the virus is spread by droplets.
Consequently, he said someone could cough during a procedure or on a surface which could result in other individuals coming in contact with their secretions.
Full protective equipment, therefore, includes wearing a waterproof gown to protect the body against the permeation of secretions. Gloves, a mask, and a face shield or goggles, are also used.