Doctors say pandemic exposed country’s fragile health system

Lahore, 3 June 2020: The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) and other Doctor’s bodies have observed that the pandemic has badly exposed the country’s fragile healthcare system.

While addressing a press conference at Lahore Press Club on Monday, Professor Muhammad Afzal Mian, President Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), Dr Ashraf Nizami, President (PMA) Lahore, Dr Tariq Mian, President Pakistan Academy of Family Physicians (PAFP) and Dr Shoaib Khan Niazi, Senior Vice President Young Doctors Association (YDA) Punjab, observed that all doctors’ associations were deeply concerned over the growing number of coronavirus patients across the country.

They added that at present, the number of patients in Pakistan had reached 70,000 while the number of deaths stood at 1,500, while on the first of Ramadan, the numbers were 12,500 and 269, respectively.

The existing health facilities in Pakistan were certainly inadequate to cope with this alarmingly rapid spread of corona, they said, and added, “It is imperative for the government not only to increase these facilities on emergency basis but also to formulate a coherent and systematic strategy for the short-term training of technical staff to operate these facilities effectively.

Regarding the current situation, the doctors’ associations demanded the following from the federal and provincial governments.

Since the facilities available for the treatment of coronavirus patients at government hospitals across the country are extremely inadequate, there is a need to increase them on a war footing. In addition, effective measures should be taken at all hospitals to ensure the safety of doctors and the paramedical staff in view of the increasing incidents of violence against the healthcare workers.

The bodies of those who died as a result of corona can be handed over to their relatives after taking some precautionary measures. The Central and Punjab governments should play their role in this regard.

In the light of the guidelines and suggestions for the burial, new SOPs implemented in Sindh should be replicated across the country to reduce public unrest and outrage over burials. This also can prevent misunderstandings, misinformation and baseless information about corona.

The government should make the public awareness campaign more effective. Make the use of masks outside the home mandatory and hold representatives of each class and organization accountable for the non-implementation of SOPs in their respective and influential sectors and communities.

Due to lack of information and lack of proper guidance from the government, the burden of patients coming from small cities to big cities including Karachi and Lahore is increasing, leading to a lack of facilities. The government should provide the best healthcare facilities to the patients in the nearest places and make it mandatory for the private hospitals to provide corona treatment facility in the cities where the patient burden is high. Hospitals, including Al-Khidmat Hospital, where the government was offered treatment to Corona patients, should also be used.

They pointed out that with the rapidly growing disease; there has also been a sharp rise in the incidence of hospital violence across the country. Doctors and paramedical staff are working day and night to save the lives of patients at the risk of not only their own lives but also the lives of their families, so it is the responsibility of the government to ensure their safety in every possible way. The medical associations, therefore, urge the federal and all provincial governments not only to provide adequate safety equipment to all health care workers but also to deploy law enforcement agencies to protect medical personnel in all hospitals treating corona. The rioters in hospitals and the perpetrators of violence against health care workers should be prosecuted under the Terrorism Act and punished as soon as possible so that no one would dare to do so again.

The doctors’ associations demanded that in case of illness, all health care workers should be provided with the best facilities in hospitals so that those who treat patients do not have to go door-to-door for self-treatment. The financial incentives being announced for all health care workers should also be implemented.

The government should timely and effectively curb misleading propaganda circulating on social media, blocking all websites and social media posts that are misleading the public and harassing health care workers and consequently causing them mental and physical abuse. Also, all those who are involved in spreading negative and misleading propaganda, should be severely punished regardless of their class, group or institution.

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