LAHORE: The resignations of almost 50 doctors across Punjab have been accepted by the provincial government, a notification said, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with more than 230,000 infections and over 4,700 deaths recorded in Pakistan.
According to a notice by the Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education (SHCME) Department, dated June 27, the 48 doctors who stepped down had tendered in their resignations at various times this year.
Of the 48 to have resigned, 11 had handed in their resignation letters before Pakistan reported its first coronavirus case on February 26, 2020.
Among the doctors to have stepped down, 14 were from Lahore's Mayo Hospital, seven from Jinnah Hospital, six from Children Hospital, four from Teaching Hospital Dera Ghazi Khan and three from Lahore General Hospital.
Two medics each also quit at Allied Hospital Faisalabad, Sheikh Zayed Medical College (SZMC) Rahim Yar Khan, Government Nawaz Sharif Teaching Hospital Yakki Gate, and Services Hospital, Lahore.
In addition, the resignations of one doctor each at the Civil Hospital Bahawalpur; Lady Aitchison Hospital, Lahore; Government Kot Khawaja Saeed Teaching Hospital, Lahore; Government Teaching Hospital, Shahdara; and Government Mian Munshi DHQ Teaching Hospital, Lahore were accepted.
Separately, doctors across the nation have been protesting over unavailability of personal protective equipment (PPEs), as well as over violence faced at the hands of both police — during demonstrations — and aggrieved families of those who lost their lives to the deadly disease.
A day earlier, the Azad Jammu and Kashmir chapter of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) had said the association "will emerge stronger" a day after several medics were "subjected to violence" and arrested during a “peaceful protest”.
In a joint press conference, the YDA and Grand Health Alliance (GHA) had condemned the government’s “non-democratic” behaviour, with the GHA chairperson warning of a "country-wide movement" if the healthcare professionals' issues were not resolved.
“Violence against young doctors will only strengthen us,” the president of YDA Kashmir said, while Dr Salman of YDA Punjab stressed that they would "stage a sit-in in front of Kashmir House in Islamabad" if the issues were ignored.
GHA Punjab President Dr Fazle Rabbi noted that doctors were dying of coronavirus due to non-provision of facilities.
Last month, the GHA had threatened to go on strike if its demands were not met by the government, highlighting how doctors, nurses and paramedical staff were still deprived of surgical masks, treatment, and allowances.
Prior to that, dozens of doctors and nurses in Punjab went on a hunger strike in April to protest against the lack of PPEs available for frontline medical staff treating the coronavirus patients.
Healthcare workers complained for weeks that Pakistan's hospitals were suffering from chronic shortages of safety gear, prompting the arrest of more than 50 doctors who called for more supplies in Quetta in April.
The frontline staff were left vulnerable, with more than 150 medical workers testing positive for the virus nationwide, according to the YDA in the worst-hit Punjab province. Protesters kept working in the hospitals while taking turns to demonstrate outside the health authority offices in Lahore.
"We do not intend on stopping until the government listens to our demands. They have been consistently refusing to adhere to our demands," Dr Salman Haseeb had said.
Doctors remain the most affected among the healthcare providers in Pakistan from the coronavirus disease, with officials confirming 42 have died so far battling the pandemic.
“We have so far lost the lives of 58 healthcare providers to COVID-19 in the country and still counting. They are 42 doctors, 13 paramedics and other support staff, two nurses and one medical student,” an official of the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSR&C) told The News on Wednesday.
"At the moment, 240 healthcare providers are hospitalised, of whom 231 are in a stable condition, while nine are on life support."
The official said at least 22 healthcare workers in Sindh lost their lives to the respiratory disease, while 11 had died in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 10 in Punjab, seven in Balochistan, five in Islamabad, and three in Gilgit-Baltistan. Luckily, no healthcare provider has died in Azad Kashmir.
The official said that by June 30, as many as 5,367 healthcare providers had contracted the viral infection, which was 3% of the national count of coronavirus patients in Pakistan.
Some 2,798 had been cured — which was 52% of the total cases — but 2,569 or 48% of healthcare providers were still under treatment at hospitals or were in self-isolation at their homes, he noted.
“Doctors are the most affected segment of healthcare providers as 61% or 3,275 of them have so far contracted the viral infection, followed by 1,453 paramedics, which are 27% of the total healthcare providers infected with the lethal virus,” the health ministry official said.
"Around 639 nurses are also among them, which is 12% of the total cases," the official added.
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