Dr. Ajeet Jain of Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital (RGSSH) doesn’t mean to cause a shock, but he doesn’t like to be in complete PPE gear when he deals with COVID-19 patients.
While his colleagues serve the COVID-19 ward and ICU in full personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes a coverall suit, surgical cap, face shield, N95 mask, shoe cover, and gloves, he dons just three items for protection: A snug N95 mask, covered with a triple-layer surgical mask, a face shield, and a surgical cap.
“This doesn’t mean I’m careless. I’ve made a calculated decision, and I’m not advocating or encouraging others to follow my lead. But so far, it has served me well,” said Dr Jain, nodal officer and head cardiologist at Rajiv Gandhi Super Specialty Hospital.
Jain’s decision was driven by three factors — experiencing spells of dizziness after wearing full PPE for long hours, the sheer expense of a complete kit, and the science behind how COVID-19 spreads.
“I took the decision after much deliberation and discussion with my colleagues. This is my understanding,” he said. “What we know is that the virus spreads through aerosol spray that enters the body through the nose and mouth. If those two parts of the body are properly sealed, and you’re careful not to contact your nose and mouth with a part that has been exposed, how will the virus get in?”
Shedding some of the PPE items, he added, has made him more vigilant about maintaining precautions. “I immediately disinfect any part of my body that has been touched, I never touch my face, and I go to bathe as soon as I’m done with my round.”
Jain hasn’t worn a full PPE kit since 16 June. In the two and a half months since, Jain said he has treated at least 1,000 patients. He has been tested for COVID-19 five times — twice through RT-PCR, twice through rapid antigen, and once for antibodies — and all his results have come back negative.
Without full PPE, Jain said, he is freer on patient rounds. There is also the fact that patients, fearful during their stay in isolation, can “see and recognise my face and feel a sense of comfort”.
Speaking to ThePrint, RGSSH director Dr B.L. Sherwal said Dr Jain is taking all precautions.
“Dr Jain wants to see for himself if he can treat COVID-19 patients without wearing the coverall, gown, and gloves, but while strictly maintaining all other precautions,” he said.