N-95 mask shortage in Trinidad & Tobago

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N-95 mask shortage in Trinidad & Tobago
Quik Pharm pharmacist Alana Bosland, right, uses the P2CV N95 respirator coronavirus mask as she attends to a customer at their branch on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
Quik Pharm pharmacist Alana Bosland, right, uses the P2CV N95 respirator coronavirus mask as she attends to a customer at their branch on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – There is a short­age of N-95 masks in the coun­try, which puts doc­tors at risk should there be an out­break of the nov­el coro­n­avirus (COVID-19).

Con­firm­ing the short­age yes­ter­day was Phar­ma­cy Board of T&T pres­i­dent An­drew Ra­haman, who told Guardian Me­dia, “it looks like the coun­try does not have”.

Guardian Me­dia con­tact­ed one of the main dis­trib­u­tors of the mask lo­cal­ly, 3M. How­ev­er, no re­sponse was giv­en as to the sta­tus of their prod­uct stock in the coun­try or when they would be re­ceiv­ing more. Guardian Me­dia, how­ev­er, un­der­stands they are out of stock.

Calls to sev­er­al phar­ma­cies and hard­wares around the coun­try were al­so placed to find out if they had any in stock. Most com­pa­nies said they were out while one hard­ware in­di­cat­ed they still had. Those with­out in­di­cat­ed they had been out of stock since the COVID-19 first gath­ered glob­al at­ten­tion in Jan­u­ary. They at­trib­uted this short­age to in­creased pub­lic de­mand as well as is­sues in their sup­ply due to the on­go­ing glob­al sup­ply is­sues brought on by the in­creased de­mand from the virus’ pen­e­tra­tion in­to more coun­tries.

How­ev­er, this short­age now com­pro­mis­es the coun­try’s abil­i­ty to cope with an out­break should it reach T&T. This is be­cause a short­age means health­care work­ers treat­ing with pa­tients would not be able to ad­e­quate­ly pro­tect them­selves from the virus. Gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­ers (GPs) are ex­pect­ed to be the hard­est hit by this is­sue since they will deal with the ma­jor­i­ty of pub­lic cas­es as front­line re­spon­ders to vi­ral in­fec­tions.

“The GPs are the first line of de­fence. GP’s and pri­ma­ry care prac­ti­tion­ers—those are the gate­keep­ers in­to the health­care sys­tem and these are the peo­ple who the pa­tients first in­ter­act with, whether it’s in the pri­vate sec­tor…or in the pub­lic health sec­tor at the lo­cal health cen­tre,” T&T Med­ical As­so­ci­a­tion pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer Mo­hammed Rah­man told Guardian Me­dia in an in­ter­view yes­ter­day.

Cit­ing in­ci­dents where doc­tors treat­ing pa­tients in the virus’ epi­cen­tre in the Hubei province of Chi­na al­so con­tract­ed the virus and sub­se­quent­ly died, Rah­man ad­vised that “med­ical prac­ti­tion­ers should not en­dan­ger them­selves and put them­selves in harm’s way by at­tend­ing to pa­tients with­out per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment.”

Con­tact­ed on the is­sue yes­ter­day, how­ev­er, Chief Med­ical Of­fi­cer Dr Roshan Paras­ram as­sured that the Min­istry of Health has a sup­ply of masks avail­able for health­care work­ers in the pub­lic sec­tor.

“We al­ready have pro­cured 25,000 about a month ago and we are due to re­ceive an­oth­er 25, hope­ful­ly, with­in the next cou­ple of weeks,” Paras­ram told Guardian Me­dia.

He added that the min­istry al­so has a sup­ply of oth­er types of masks for health­care work­ers who aren’t on the front­line.

Over the week­end, the US Sur­geon Gen­er­al tweet­ed: “Se­ri­ous­ly peo­ple- STOP BUY­ING MASKS! They are NOT ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing gen­er­al pub­lic from catch­ing #Coro­n­avirus, but if health­care providers can’t get them to care for sick pa­tients, it puts them and our com­mu­ni­ties at risk!”

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) al­so ex­plained in a ques­tion and an­swer video that masks should on­ly be worn by those who are sick to pre­vent spread­ing the virus, not to pre­vent con­tract­ing it.

“WHO on­ly rec­om­mends the use of masks in spe­cif­ic cas­es. If you have a cough, fever and dif­fi­cul­ty breath­ing, you should wear a mask and seek med­ical care. If you do not have these symp­toms, you do not have to wear masks be­cause there is no ev­i­dence that they pro­tect peo­ple who are not sick,” WHO in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion and con­trol con­sul­tant Chris­tine Fran­cis said.

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