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Alarm raised over vulnerability of health professionals to virus


June 1, 2020

Islamabad:Alarmed by the growing vulnerability of health professionals to coronavirus, Young Consultant Association chairman Dr Asfandyar Khan has warned that if a single doctor gets infected with coronavirus, every health care worker that comes into contact with him/her had to be quarantined.

Taking to 'The News', he wondered if all doctors were quarantined, who would treat patients. “All frontline health care professionals in the fight against COVID-19 needs protective gear to protect themselves and stop transmission. The entire staff deputed in A&E should be wearing the personal protective equipment comprising N95 masks, goggles, face shields, gloves, shoe covers and disposable gown during duty hours,” he said.

Dr Asfandyar said the Covid-19 testing should be made mandatory for all patients visiting hospitals. He said all patients visiting the accident and emergency wards should be received, examined and managed as the confirmed virus cases using PPEs until the results of relevant investigations were available.

“The on-call teams visiting the A&E warns for attending calls/patients again need to wear protective gear as for A&E staff to protect themselves and others. Only one attendant should be allowed with a patient both in A&E and on the ward. Wearing good quality mask should be made mandatory for both patient and his attendant,” he said.

The YCA chairman also called for the rationalisation of the number of health professionals on the unit depending on workload. He said there should be reasonable social distancing and other safety measures for all residents as he had seen them time and again chat in groups without wearing face masks.

“Doctors on the units should wear PPEs comprising preferably N95, gloves, disposable gown, additional goggles and face shields when examining patients and during procedures. Same should be there for nurses while looking after patients,” he said.

Dr Asfandyar said the support staff working in the units needed regular briefings on the use of protective gear like face mask, gloves and if possible disposable gowns, while they would only need regular reminders on segregation and safe disposal of Hospital waste. He said the 'Shahadat narrative' was overused in the country to brush aside institutional failures.

"We never think how preventable the deaths were because we are told to celebrate the martyrdom and pray for the deceased. Now that the public salutes and adulation are over, doctors are left to deal with the grim realities of Covid 19 and are forced on the frontlines often without proper protection equipment and are told to embrace shahadat without their wishes. They're forced to also put their loved ones at risk," he said. The YCA chairman said no doctor should be made to be a shaheed just because some people could go shopping.

“We [doctors and health workers] are so scared to even call out our officials over fears of own lives. Let's not celebrate the shahadat of people, who don't want to be shaheed, and instead we should celebrate their lives and question those who put them at risk,” he said.

Dr Asfandyar said doctors were dying of Covid-19 daily. "They [doctors] are the most finite of resources we have - we can bring the economy back but no one can bring back these lives. Let's blame their deaths on the inaction of public officials and terrible decisions they make," he said.