Medical personnel in Daghestan are claiming that there is a critical lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and that many of them are falling ill with COVID-19 as a result.
‘Our entire staff works wearing homemade masks. For the sake of appearances, they handed out 200 so-called “anti-plague” suits, full of holes […] and without even shoe covers.’
These are reportedly the words of Artur Muradaliyev, an anesthesiologist and resuscitation specialist at the Central City Hospital in the city of Daghestanskiye Ogni, Daghestan. They were posted on 29 April on the Instagram account ‘Novosti Daghestana’ (Daghestan news).
In the post, Muradaliyev reports that medical staff in the hospital have been working without protective equipment for more than a month.
As Daghestan’s capital of Makhachkala goes into a full lockdown, the virus continues to ravage the republic. Meanwhile, doctors report a lack of personal protective equipment and a growing death toll, even as the government denies any serious problems.
Further on in his post, Muradaliyev wrote that the hospital had carried out no preparation for COVID-19, but the head doctor of the hospital ‘made us report a high level of preparedness for particularly dangerous infections’.
The Health Ministry of Daghestan wrote on Instagram that there was a ‘deficit’ of PPE in Russia due to a massive increase in demand, but that the situation was being addressed. They told OC Media that on 22 April, Daghestan received 842 million rubles (11.2 million US dollars) to purchase medical equipment that would fill any equipment shortfall.
The Ministry also warned against any ‘fundraising’ for medical workers’ PPE on the part of the general public.
On 25 April, Patient Monitor, a Daghestani healthcare advocacy group, reported that they had delivered 100 respirators and 50 goggles to the Kizilyurt ambulance station in central Daghestan.
According to the organisation, the ambulance doctors from Kizilyurt were among the first to turn to them for help after they announced that they were fundraising to purchase PPE for medical workers on 20 April.
After the PPE was delivered, the Health Ministry of Daghestan said that there was no equipment shortage at Kizilyurt Hospital. It was the same post in which they warned against fundraising. They made no mention of Patient Monitor.
Khalid Omarov, a representative of Patient Monitor, told OC Media that the Ministry of Health has attributed ‘the merits of ordinary people who gave money during this crisis period’ to itself.
‘Their gowns were bought before us by someone else, donors that is, not the Ministry of Health. The doctors also need medical protective clothing, and, while the fundraising was going on, some good people — again, not the Ministry of Health — gave them to the hospital,’ he said.
According to him, the Ministry stayed quiet for five days while the fundraising was taking place, and then officially ‘denied’ any shortage after Patient Monitor had already delivered the equipment to medical workers.
‘Now the hospitals, which are fully equipped, have bought everything at the expense of the donors,’ he said, adding that some of the money also comes from hospital funds which should be spent on drug provision. Meanwhile some hospitals, he said, ‘are not equipped’.
‘Look at the self-made masks of the doctors who speak in front of their cameras,’ said Omarov.
The Ministry did not respond to OC Media’s question on how many novel coronavirus cases have been registered among medical workers and whether there have been any fatalities among them.
‘The leadership of the Health Ministry of Daghestan has to resign’
On 25 April, Daghestani journalist Said Ninalalov wrote on Instagram that the doctors of the City Hospital #2 of Makhachkala have not been provided with personal protective equipment and that many had contracted COVID-19. The number of cases among medical staff, according to him, exceeded 30 people.
Claims regarding a lack of PPE have been corroborated to OC Media by two doctors who work at the Infectious Diseases Hospital and the City Hospital #2 of Makhachkala, respectively. Both requested to remain anonymous.
According to the doctors, patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are sent exclusively to the City Hospital #1, while those with pneumonia are sent to City Hospital #2.
The doctor working at City Hospital #2 told OC Media that many of the medical personnel do not have even the most basic protective equipment — including masks, respirators, and goggles. Worse still, the testing regimen ensures that patients without COVID-19 are exposed to those who are infected.
‘Patients with pneumonia are hospitalised in our hospital but among them, there are patients who are suspected of having coronavirus’, they added. ‘Until confirmation comes, they share a common room [with other patients] and none of the other patients have masks.’
Meanwhile, doctors and other medical professionals continue to fall ill, including, ‘six doctors from the surgical department, six from the cardiology department and several orderlies’.
Meanwhile, the doctor from Makhachkala Infectious Disease Hospital told OC Media that the situation in their hospital is also dire.
‘The doctors are left without personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 patients are basically treated with vitamins’, they said. ‘The leadership of the Health Ministry of Daghestan has to be dismissed.’
They added that, despite the severity of the situation, major medical institutions are nevertheless incomparably better off than smaller clinics and hospitals in more rural areas of Daghestan.
A ‘Memory List’, where relatives and colleagues can enter information about medical workers who have ‘died during the epidemic from causes related to COVID-19’, has recently been published in Russia and is being constantly updated.
As of publication, the list has over 90 names. Eight of the medical workers listed were working in the Republic of Daghestan. These statistics have not been officially confirmed.