Expressing concern over lack of proper safety measures for the healthcare providers at hospitals to deal with COVID-19 patients, medical associations representing doctors and paramedics on Tuesday urged the federal and provincial governments to take measures for the well-being of frontline workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff as well as sanitary workers by providing them the most needed personal protective equipment (PPE).
They also announced the provision of PPE to healthcare providers, and urged the federal and provincial governments to increase the process of testing and diagnosis in the country and implement an effective lockdown in areas where coronavirus cases were on the rise.
They made these demands at a joint news conference of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), the Young Nurses Association (YNA), the Young Doctors Association (YDA), the Midwifery Association, provincial and Karachi bar associations and others at the PMA House Karachi.
Speaking on the occasion, PMA office-bearers, including Dr Sharif Hashmani and Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, Dr Atif Hafeez from the PIMA, Uroosa Lakhani and Riffat Jan from the Midwifery Association, Heera Lal from the YNA Sindh, advocate Zia Awan and others expressed grave concerns about the existing conditions of healthcare workers and the corona infection situation, and called for providing personal protective equipment to healthcare providers on an urgent basis.
They said that instead of giving priority to purchasing ventilators, resources should be used for expanding testing capacity and providing effective PPE to healthcare workers. They further suggested that coronavirus screening and testing facilities should be extended to district level as soon as possible.
Urging the federal and provincial governments to develop strict screening facilities at the points of entry, quarantine centres and isolation centres, they demanded designating coronavirus-specific hospitals and equip them with all the necessary equipment and machinery.
Representatives of medical associations also called for activating the network of community clinics, family physicians and registered general practitioners with proper PPE and standard operating procedures (SOPs), they called for promoting home isolation wherever possible with monitoring and reporting of data by registered GPs and community.
They further recommended that specialty clinics and hospital OPDs should continue with emergency services only with proper PPE and SOPs, and said that IT mobile tracking of coronavirus positive patients should be activated. Similarly, they added that based on test results (incidence), targeted specific areas should be lockdown.
Representatives of the PMA and other bodies said the government was not paying any heed to their repeated demands. They feared that if healthcare workers were not protected, it could prove to be another catastrophe for the country.
They said it was time the authorities acted fast to overcome the worsening situation. “For the general public, we will advise them to stay home.” The PMA also introduced a safety dress and face shield designed for doctors, nurses, other healthcare and sanitary staff working at the hospitals.
“We have developed this safety dress and face shield on a self-help basis with help of friends and an NGO. We want to provide this to all healthcare and sanitary staff in hospitals free of cost as much as possible, as we have very limited resources,” PMA representatives said.