M'sia doctors & nurses treat Covid-19 by wearing dustbin bags as protective gear as supplies run out

Front line workers at risk.

Belmont Lay | March 23, 2020, 02:39 PM

Doctors and nurses in Malaysia hospitals are using homemade protection gear made from everyday items such as dustbin liners to treat Covid-19 patients.

This is due to a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The inadequacy of such self-made gear is evident, based on this video:


Videos of medical staff making protective suits from dustbin liners, cling wrap and plastic bags have been shared on social media.

The lack of protective equipment puts medical frontliners in danger of becoming infected with Covid-19 themselves.

At present, 19 medical frontliners in Malaysia have tested positive with Covid-19, of which 11 are warded in intensive care.

PPE includes surgical caps, face shields, gloves, gowns, boot covers and N95 masks.

These items are currently hard to come by in Malaysia.

No choice

Doctors and nurses told Malay Mail they have no choice but to resort to DIY gear because supplies at their hospitals have run out, but patients keep coming in.

“Each time we treat a patient or even carry out a test for Covid-19, we have to suit up, which in itself takes 30 minutes or more," said one doctor from a government hospital in East Malaysia.

“We then dispose of the suits after that. We go through four or five suits each day. It is very tiring."

“The most important thing is that it does not offer much protection, but we have no choice.”

Accusations of hoarding by middlemen

Two senior doctors have written an open letter appealing to the authorities to speed up the provision of supplies, which they suspect is not due to shortages but hoarding.

Musa Mohd Nordin and Zulkifli Ismail, both paediatricians at private hospitals, revealed that larger hospitals like Sungai Buloh Hospital may have a sufficient supply of PPEs.

But the same cannot be said of other hospitals, including private ones.

Three companies in Malaysia that manufacture PPEs, Musa and Zulkifli revealed.

Musa was a member of the now-defunct advisory panel to the Health Ministry.

“There are at least three plants manufacturing PPEs in Selangor alone. According to them, there were long queues of trucks of agents and distributors to buy PPE supplies from the three plants,” Musa said.

“Why have we not heard from these companies? Are they expecting to increase their price at a time of national crisis or are they ‘stockpiling’ to force the demand and reap from a supply shortage? Presumably, the middlemen, agents and distributors are similarly cashing in on the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The situation is expected to get worse as more people head to hospitals for tests and get admitted.

Malaysia allegedly also does not have enough ventilators or Intensive Care Unit beds to treat Covid-19 patients.

Malaysia Health Minister Adham Baba was recently criticised for claiming that drinking warm water can help to prevent the Covid-19 infection.