Critical services employees design their own Covid-19 protective clothing
GroundUp reported that when stocks of the right size suits ran out, one worker whose suit did not fit her had to close it with duct tape. EMS workers are demanding full protective suits to work in.
Emergency medical services (EMS) workers in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, resorted to using plastic sheets, duct tape and bed covers to protect themselves while transporting patients at the weekend.
But the Western Cape health department says workers have been given sufficient personal protective equipment.
As of 1pm on May 5, the Western Cape had recorded 2,610 confirmed active cases of Covid-19. Of these, 474 cases were recorded in Khayelitsha alone.
On Saturday, about 30 EMS workers based in Khayelitsha went on strike, demanding that they be given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). The group resumed work on Monday after meeting with management to discuss their concerns.
“After every shift, I take off everything and spray myself. As soon as I get home, I shower and scrub myself before I touch my children because I’m so scared of giving them the virus,” says EMS worker Charlotte Clarke, who was one of the strikers.
She is an intermediate life support practitioner at Eastern division, which services thousands of residents in Khayelitsha, Strand, Macassar, Somerset West, Gordons Bay and Sir Lowry’s Pass.
“Right now we use the face visor, mask, gloves and an apron. This is not enough. We need the A40 suit that gives full protection to do hospital transfers, as well as suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases. But we were told by management that we can’t use the A40 for home calls and suspected cases; that it’s only for confirmed cases,” said Clarke.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, EMS workers used the A40 suits only when transporting drug-resistant TB patients and there were enough to go round.
“Then Covid-19 hit and we started wearing the suits more often. When we got a call, we would go to the base to put on the A40 suit, and go fetch the patient. This worked for a month then they realised the stock was running out.”
Clarke says last month she responded to a house call and, without a suit, says she was possibly exposed to the coronavirus.