A group of German doctors have posed naked in an attempt to draw attention to shortages of protective clothing and equipment.
Calling their protest Blanke Bedenken, or Naked Qualms, members of the group said they felt at risk from coronavirus and claimed their calls for help over several months had gone unheeded.
Ruben Bernau, a GP in the group, told the Ärztezeitung that he and his practice team were insufficiently equipped to deal with the virus. “The nudity is a symbol of how vulnerable we are without protection,” he said.
The doctors posed in their practices, taking cover behind files, toilet roles, medical equipment and prescription blocks.
Christian Rechtenwald, who also has a GP practice, said the group had been inspired by the actions of a French doctor, Alain Colombié, who was photographed naked in his practice after describing himself and fellow doctors as “cannon fodder” in the fight against the pandemic.
Jana Husemann, another GP, said: “Of course we want to continue treating patients who still need to receive a close examination.” For that she required proper PPE, she said.
One doctor said she was “trained to sew up wounds” and asked: “Why am I now having to sew my own face mask?”
German doctors have repeatedly appealed for more PPE since the arrival of the virus in Germany in late January.
German firms that make protective clothing have upped their production capacities but have been unable to meet demand. Medical practices, clinics and care homes have made frequent requests for filter masks, goggles, gloves and aprons and say their needs have barely been met.
Medical staff have also reported widespread theft of disinfectant and masks from hospitals, for which police have blamed organised criminal gangs. Many hospitals have increased their security as a result.
A recent study by an association of German health insurers found that doctors were lacking more than 100m single-use masks, almost 50m filter masks, more than 60m single-use aprons, and a similar number of disposable gloves.
Demand for PPE has differed strongly from region to region, with North Rhine Westphalia and Bavaria among the most in need.
Marc-Pierre Möll, the chief executive of the German Medical Technology Association, called on the government to support a structured increase in domestic production.
“If such organisation was politically desired and there were guaranteed quantities for fair prices, there would be no difficulties,” Möll told German media.
The government has responded by saying it plans to centralise the procurement of PPE.
On its Twitter feed @BlankeBedenken, the protest group said Germany had claimed to be well resourced in its coronavirus fight. “But the protective clothing, disinfectant and single-use masks were soon not to be had. Despite their concerns about they and their patients being insufficiently protected against contracting the virus, across the country GPs and their teams are caring for people.”