COVID-19 Pandemic: Protective Gear Shortage Pushes UK Nurses To Use Garbage Bags

The United Kingdom currently has more than 65,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 8,000 deaths linked to the disease. With the growing number of patients, the country is facing a shortage of protective equipment for its frontliners. 

The British Medical Association requires doctors, nurses and carers to wear at least a surgical face mask, disposable apron, disposable gloves and eye protection when dealing with COVID-19 patients. Those who would work on higher-risk situations, such as when aerosol-generating procedures or surgeries, must use an FFP3 respirator, long-sleeved disposable gown, disposable gloves and disposable eye protection.

However, some hospitals have been facing challenges in providing adequate protective gear to frontliners. That led three nurses at a hospital in England to turn to garbage bags to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The nurses improvised medical gowns using clinical waste bags at the Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow, the Telegraph reported. The move comes at the time the hospital saw some of its staff contracted the novel coronavirus, according to a senior nurse. 

But the garbage bags did not effectively protect the nurses. All of the three frontliners have been tested positive for COVID-19. 

Northwick Hospital said 50 percent of the staff in one ward have the disease. The hospital has been placed into a state of emergency after all critical care wards reached full capacity in March. 

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said at least 5.7 percent of hospital doctors at the National Health Service (NHS) in England are also currently unfit to work. But the number may be higher. 

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) recently released a new survey that found hospital staff sickness in the region has already climbed to 14.6 percent. The United Kingdom is not the only country facing challenges in protecting its frontliners. 

In the U.S., hospitals are close to losing all supplies of protective equipment to manage patients with COVID-19. The House Oversight and Reform Committee issued a report showing nearly 90 percent of the equipment in the Strategic National Stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments. 

“The President failed to bring in FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) early on, failed to name a national commander for this crisis, and failed to fully utilize the authorities Congress gave him under the Defense Production Act to procure and manage the distribution of critical supplies,” House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “He must take action now to address these deficiencies.”

The federal government plans to deploy all of the remaining equipment in its inventory, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told the Associated Press. 

Coronavirus COVID-19 Doctors New York, USA Doctors test hospital staff with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus (COVID-19) in set-up tents to triage possible COVID-19 patients outside before they enter the main Emergency department area at St. Barnabas hospital in the Bronx on March 24, 2020 in New York City. New York City has about a third of the nation’s confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the center of the outbreak in the United States. Misha Friedman/Getty Images

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