On the front lines of the coronavirus battle: A Pakistani doctor’s tale


I’m a medical doctor and part of an organised effort to subdue the effects of coronavirus

The Awami Workers Party (AWP) has been setting up medical camps in underprivileged communities in Islamabad, and what I have seen in these camps is not particularly comforting

Would you like to hear the bad news first? Things may get worse before they get better

Coronavirus spreads rapidly

Estimates suggest that between 50% to 70% of the world’s population could eventually be infected

From the looks of it, Pakistan would not be an exception, and the elderly and immunocompromised people would be the most vulnerable

There’s no need to panic, however

COVID-19, although aggressive, is not necessarily lethal

A vast majority of the infected people eventually recover, but they may require proper medical treatment

The challenge, however, is that if everyone gets sick at the same time, our hospitals may not be able to accommodate everyone and offer adequate treatment

The objective isn’t so much to stop Coronavirus, but to slow its spread through social distancing and good hygiene practices

This is significantly harder when our clinicians are not adequately equipped to handle this influx

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) has criticised the government’s inaction, while some doctors have suggested that they may stop working entirely

In addition to PPEs, healthcare workers – not just in COVID-19 wards, but everywhere – require easy access to hand-sanitisers

This demand has been interpreted by the media as ‘selfishness’, which is absurd

Would you like to be seen at the hospital by a doctor who is an active carrier of a coronavirus infection? Healthcare professionals concerned about their own safety are not neglecting the ‘national interest’

An infected doctor or nurse must isolate themselves to prevent spreading the infection to vulnerable people

The more medical staff we lose to the infection, the harder it becomes to fight back during a health crisis

It’s frankly a bit jarring that I even have to make this argument, because healthcare professionals are people who deserve protection

You wouldn’t send a soldier to Siachen with a plastic bucket on his head and a cardboard box as body armour

So why would anyone think it’s acceptable for a nurse to march into the hospital without PPEs and an administrative system that minimises risk of infection? The fault lies not with the clinicians on the front-line, but the government officials who are glacially slow to react to this looming crisis

This is an administration that has consistently issued mixed signals about the severity of this crisis

This is an administration where the chief minister of Punjab ostensibly cannot tell the difference between a virus and an insect bite, and assured the clerics that the mosques would remain open

From a nightmarish quarantine camp in Taftan, to Imran Khan opening up the Pak-Afghan border, there’s ample evidence of mismanagement

This is hardly a matter of affordability for the government

An establishment that can afford to spend Rs42 million to defend the government on the internet at the time of this public health crisis, can probably afford to provide enough PPEs to the healthcare workers

Instead of punching upwards at men in large offices who determine budgets and enact policies, much of the public outrage is being directed at ordinary men and women of the medical workforce

We need our doctors and nurses to be safe, more than the VIPs need their howling motorcades



Date:22-Mar-2020 Reference:View Original Link