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Facing covid-19 and violence simultaneously, healthcare community in Pakistan has lost 24 colleagues so far

June 02, 2020

Fighting violence against them and the lethal coronavirus simultaneously at hospitals without having personal protective equipment and security at their workplace, Pakistan’s healthcare providers’ community has so far lost 24 of their colleagues, including 15 doctors and a medical student, two nurses and six paramedics, officials told The News on Monday.

As many as 2,201 healthcare workers -- 1,240 doctors, 333 nurses and 628 paramedics -- have contracted the disease so far. Many of these patients have been hospitalised while the condition of several of them is highly critical, officials said on Monday. “We have so far lost 24 healthcare providers -- 15 doctors and a medical student, two nurses and six paramedics and other allied staff -- to the coronavirus infection in the country. The situation is so much critical for these frontline workers that 139 healthcare providers have contracted the disease during the last 24 hours in the country,” an official of the National Health Services told The News.

Describing the gravity of the situation, officials said at least six more healthcare workers, including three doctors, had lost their lives during last three days in the country, while around 300 of them had contracted the disease since Friday. Dozens of them, especially the doctors, had been hospitalised, some were in a critical condition.

Infected healthcare providers

Giving details of the healthcare providers infected with the coronavirus in the country, federal health officials said 2,201 healthcare workers, including 1,240 doctors, had been infected with the coronavirus, while 333 nurses and 628 paramedics and other allied staff had also been infected.

“Three per cent of our total case count is comprised of healthcare workers who are infected with the coronavirus. Doctors are the most affected section as around 1,240 have contracted the disease, while 15 of them as well as one medical student who was involved with a hospital, have lost their lives,” the federal government official said.

“At the moment, 1,412 healthcare workers are either hospitalised or in home isolation. The condition of some of the hospitalised healthcare workers is critical and they are on life-support,” the official said, adding that 789 healthcare workers had recovered, which was 36 per cent of the total healthcare providers who had contracted the disease so far.

Officials said 20 per cent of the 2,201 healthcare providers who had contracted the disease were performing their duties in the critical care departments of the hospitals, while 80 per cent were serving at wards and out-patient departments (OPDs).

Violence on the rise

Despite dying of COVID-19 and getting hospitalised due to lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), violence against healthcare providers, especially doctors and nurses, is on the rise and COVID-19 wards are daily being attacked by attendants of patients who succumb to complications of the disease, officials said.

Female doctors and nurses are facing the brunt of the situation in the country and many female doctors and nurses are staying away from healthcare facilities due to the coronavirus infection and the growing violence against them, they added.

“Healthcare workers are extremely demoralised due to growing violence, a smear campaign and propaganda against them, while no security is being provided to healthcare workers, who are risking their lives for patients,” said Dr Khan, a consultant at a leading public hospital in the country, saying statements of politicians and other observations also resulted in violence against healthcare providers.

The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA, the largest medical association of doctors in the country, said doctors and paramedics were facing double jeopardy, as on the one hand, they were getting sick and losing lives due to the coronavirus, and on the other, they were repeatedly being subjected to violence.

“The workforce at the healthcare facilities in Pakistan is diminishing at a rapid pace due to COVID-19 as well as due to violence against healthcare providers. Doctors and nurses are dying daily due to the lethal infection while treating patients, and on the other hand, people are subjecting them to violence, which is totally unacceptable,” said Dr Zeeshan Ansari, a member of PIMA, while talking to The News.

He maintained that doctors and healthcare facilities were being attacked on a daily basis throughout the country, and blamed the smear campaign against them on social media, ignorance of some people and lack of security at the healthcare facilities. He said time was not far when there would be no doctor left in the country to take care of the patients.

“With over 1,200 doctors and nurses hospitalised and many more staying at home, especially female doctors, the workforce at the health facilities is diminishing with each passing day. If violence against healthcare providers continues, doctors may take extreme steps, which may include boycotting their duties,” he warned.