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Are authorities under-reporting deaths of healthcare providers due to Covid-19 in Pakistan?

Pakistan has lost 154 healthcare providers, including 128 doctors, to Covid-19 so far, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) claimed on Wednesday.

Punjab has lost the highest number of doctors where 56 physicians and surgeons have died of the coronavirus infection, while Sindh has lost 39 physicians and surgeons since March 19, 2020, when the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country, according to the PMA.

“As many as 154 healthcare providers — 128 doctors and 26 paramedical staff including nurses and technicians — have lost their lives due to Covid-19 in Pakistan so far. We have lost six doctors in the last four days, which shows the gravity of the situation,” said Prof Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), while talking to The News.

On the other hand, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) says 100 healthcare providers — 71 doctors, 26 paramedics, 2 nurses and one medical student — have so far died due to Covid-19 in the country.

Dr Sajjad, who himself is in home isolation after testing positive for the deadly virus a few days back, shared a list of doctors and paramedics who had lost their lives, saying he had compiled the list of doctors with their names, education, province, health facility where they worked, the date of demise and pictures. He said there could be some more healthcare providers who had lost their lives due to Covid-19 but they could not appear on their radar.

“All these 154 healthcare providers, especially doctors, served their patients throughout their careers and sacrificed their lives for the well-being of people. For us, they are Shaheed who sacrificed their lives for Allah Almighty and we need to respect and honour their sacrifices,” he said, adding that the federal and provincial governments should announce honourable compensation packages for their Shuhada like the martyrs of military, paramilitary forces and police.

According to the list compiled by the PMA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has lost 24 doctors, Balochistan five physicians and surgeons, three doctors have died in Azad Kashmir, while one young doctor has passed away in Gilgit-Baltistan due to the infectious disease.

The PMA secretary general said they were very much concerned over the rapid increase in the number of Covid-19 patients during this second wave of pandemic in the country.

“Due to this increase in the burden of disease, doctors are getting infected rapidly and dying. During this second wave which started on November, 18 doctors have lost their lives (Punjab 7, Sindh 5, KPK 4 and AJK 2). The situation is very alarming,” he said, adding that unfortunately doctors were not getting proper protection.

He maintained that till now more than 3,000 doctors were in isolation and the number of patients was increasing day by day, and as a result the burden on hospitals and healthcare workers was also increasing. There was shortage of all types of beds in hospitals for Covid-19 patients, and hospitals were refusing to take new patients due to this reason, he added.

“At the same time, healthcare providers are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment. There is no proper place in the hospitals for doctors’ isolation. They are not getting any risk allowance and even not getting their salaries on time. It is very unfortunate that the announcement of a Shuhada Package by the government for the families of Shaheed doctors has not been implemented yet, and the aggrieved families are going through a hard time with lots of economic problems.”

Dr Sajjad deplored that during their long hours’ duty, doctors get exhaust and do not have a room to sit and get relaxed. At the same time, they face misbehaviour and violence from patients and their attendants.

“There is no check over the entry in hospitals, patients who are Covid-19 positive enter hospitals, which increases the risk of doctors and others getting infected. There should be one entrance at the hospital where people should properly be scanned, their temperature examined and their hands sanitised.”

The PMA demanded from federal and provincial governments and private hospitals’ managements to take extra care to save the lives of doctors, saying that every hospital should allocate few beds for doctors. “The government should take immediate steps for the protection of doctors and make sure the provision of an uninterrupted supply of PPE for doctors.”

NCOC data

With the demise of a senior health professional in Lahore a few days ago, Pakistan has now lost 100 healthcare providers due to Covid-19 during the last nine months, while 85 healthcare providers have contracted the infectious disease in the last 24 hours in the country, National Command and Operations (NCOC) officials said on Wednesday.

“With a very heavy heart, we would like to announce that Pakistan has so far lost 100 healthcare providers because of Covid-19, which include 71 doctors, 26 paramedical staff, two nurses and one medical student. Every day, dozens of healthcare providers are contracting the coronavirus infection while serving the ailing humanity and in the last 24 hours, and 85 healthcare providers have tested positive for the infectious disease,” an official of the NCOC told The News.

According to NCOC data, so far 10,464 healthcare providers have contracted the infectious disease, which is three percent of the national case count, while 9,680 healthcare providers have fully recovered. Of these, 10,464 healthcare providers — 63 per cent doctors, 25 per cent paramedics and other support staff, and 12 per cent nurses – have become infected.

As per the data, Sindh is the most affected province where 34 healthcare providers have lost their lives, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhawa where 25 healthcare providers have died, Punjab has lost 14 healthcare providers, Islamabad has lost 10 healthcare providers, Balochistan has seen the deaths of eight healthcare providers, Azad Kashmir has lost six healthcare providers, while Gilgit-Baltistan has lost three healthcare providers.

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