Sean Gladwell

Flemish doctor sounds the alarm over protective equipment

Hospital doctor E. Van Looy has written an open letter to politicians and the public at large sounding the alarm with regard to the poor quality of the mouth masks with which he and his colleagues are supposed to treat COVID-19 patients.  Dr Van Looy says that there’s little point in donning the masks because they clearly do not provide protection.

Dr Van Looy is a trainee consultant, a fully trained doctor, who is now specialising.  Like his colleagues he is now working on COVID-19 wards.  He says it’s not self-evident if you have received training for a specialisation other than respiratory illness, but he and his colleagues are doing their best. 

Physically and mentally it is hard work, but that shouldn’t be a problem.  However a couple of days ago he noticed that they were being given different mouth masks: “It immediately felt it didn’t close tightly around chin and nose.  Free air circulation was possible.  I saw my colleagues around me come to the same conclusion, one by one: the masks had little point.”

“We looked at each other without saying a word and entered the isolation ward.  Patients had to be helped with or without proper protection. “

“In the course of the morning two masks tore of their own accord, while we were in rooms with infected patients.  We hardly noticed.  It made little difference: the show must go on.”

Dr Van Looy reported the matter to the hospital’s COVID-19 co-ordinator.  He said he was aware of the problem: “These are the masks we received from the authorities.  We have no alternative.”

He also contacted colleagues in other hospitals, who say the situation there is little better. Dr Van Looy stresses that he and his colleagues and an army of hardworking paramedics are ready to help, but it becomes very difficult in a situation in which they are unable to protect themselves.

(Our photo is just an illustration.  It does not depict the masks at issue.)