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May 11, 2020

Future of health care at stake as 257 more workers diagnosed with coronavirus in five days

Karachi

May 11, 2020

Health managers and officials have been worriedly trying to figure out who will treat patients at tertiary-care hospitals and serious cases at critical care facilities across Pakistan when healthcare workers themselves have been contracting COVID-19 at an alarming pace.

The News has learnt that healthcare providers, especially doctors, nurses and paramedical staff members, are not only testing positive for the novel coronavirus and being put into isolation on a daily basis but 11 of them have already lost their lives while one has been put on ventilator.

The severity of transmission of COVID-19 among healthcare workers can be judged from the fact that, according to officials, 257 healthcare providers have contracted the virus between May 5 and May 9, with one losing his life during this five-day period.

“Eighteen staff members of Karachi’s only specialised burns centre at the Dr Ruth KM Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been asked to go into self-isolation,” an official of the federal health ministry told The News on Sunday.

“They include the staff that disinfects the equipment and bandages, several male and female dressers and other essential staff as well as two qualified doctors. If this trend of infection among healthcare providers continues in the coming days, the centre would be closed for seriously burnt patients.”

The situation is not any different at several other specialised health facilities in the country where consultant physicians, trained nurses and qualified paramedics and technicians are contracting the disease at an alarming rate and are being asked to go into self-isolation to spare patients, colleagues and family members. “Every day two to three dozen healthcare providers are contracting the coronavirus from their patients throughout the country, while in some cases, healthy patients have acquired the infection from healthcare workers,” said the official.

“Several wards at different public and private hospitals in the country have been closed. This is very alarming, and if this trend continues, we are heading towards a disaster.”

Panic and fear

A sense of panic and fear prevails among healthcare professionals of Pakistan as 11 healthcare providers, including five doctors, at least one nurse and paramedical and support staff members, have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

“As many as 766 healthcare providers — 440 doctors, 111 nurses and 215 paramedics and other support staff — have been infected [until May 9] and forced to live in home isolation or are under treatment at hospitals,” said the official. “We have seen 257 healthcare providers contracting the disease during the last one week, which is an extremely alarming situation.”

The official said that 144 of the 766 healthcare workers caught the disease while performing their duties in critical care units for coronavirus patients, while the remaining 622 contracted the virus in wards, outpatient departments and other clinics.

The figure of healthcare providers affected by COVID-19 across the country was 509 until May 5, but it reached 766 in less than a week, explained the official.

One of the healthcare providers is on life support at the moment and a large majority of them and many of their contacts are in isolation, while dozens of others are waiting for their test results.

Worst affected

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the worst-hit with respect to the number of healthcare providers infected with the coronavirus as 186 have tested positive there, followed by 184 in Punjab, 149 in Sindh, 138 in Balochistan, 83 in the Islamabad Capital Territory [ICT], 22 in Gilgit-Baltistan and four in Azad Jammu & Kashmir [AJK],” said the official.

Providing a breakdown of the numbers, the official said that of the 440 infected doctors, most (122) were from KP, followed by 97 from Balochistan, 90 from Sindh, 85 from Punjab, 43 from the ICT, two from GB and one from AJK.

The highest number of the 111 nurses infected with COVID-19 are in Punjab (46), followed by 22 in the ICT, 20 in KP, 18 in Sindh, four in Balochistan and one in GB, added the official.

Similarly, said the official, the highest number of the 215 infected paramedics and support staff are also in Punjab (53), followed by 44 in KP, 41 in Sindh, 37 in Balochistan, 19 in GB, 18 in the ICT and three in AJK.

Hospitalised

The official said that 220 healthcare providers afflicted with COVID-19 are undergoing treatment at hospitals at the moment, while one of them is on life support. “At 114, Sindh has the highest number of healthcare providers hospitalised, followed by 89 in Punjab, eight in KP, six in GB and three in the ICT.”

Similarly, said the official, 372 healthcare providers are in isolation at home or elsewhere: 150 in KP, 127 in Balochistan, 72 in the ICT and 23 in Punjab.

Recovered

A total of 163 healthcare providers have also recovered from COVID-19 and are performing duties at their respective healthcare facilities in the country, said the official.

Among the recovered doctors, nurses, paramedics and support staff, 72 are from Punjab, 30 from Sindh, 26 from KP, 14 from GB, 10 from Balochistan, seven from the ICT and four from AJK, added the official.