KARACHI: As the Covid-19 cases are soaring across the country, the second wave of the pandemic is taking a high toll on medical professionals, causing the death of 10 doctors within five days and forcing some 3,000 health workers into isolation across Pakistan, it emerged on Wednesday.
A list prepared by the Pakistan Medical Association shows that six of the 10 doctors died on a single day (Nov 29) in Karachi, Lahore and Multan.
The latest victim is Dr Muhammad Farooq, an additional director of the Khalifa Gul Nawaz Hospital, Bannu, Peshawar, who died of Covid-19 on Wednesday.
The second wave of the pandemic starting from November has so far claimed the lives of 18 doctors in the country.
The names of Punjab-based doctors who died of Covid-19 from Nov 28 to Dec 2 are: Dr Sarwar Bilal, Millat Hospital, Chistian, Bahawalnagar, Prof Brig retired Zafar Ahmed Malik, also a former adviser in anaesthesiology at the Pakistan Armed Force Medical Services, Rawalpindi; Dr Masood Amjad Chughtai, a former professor in biochemistry at the Nishtar Medical University, Multan; Prof M.B. Jamil of the Nishtar Medical University, Multan; Dr Ziaullah, the head of department of medicine and allied sciences at the Sheikh Zayed Hospital, Lahore, and Prof Brig Shaheen Moin, the dean of Medical School, Rawalpindi.
The list includes three Karachi-based doctors: Prof Rasheed Choudhary, a professor of surgery and former director at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre; Dr Khalid Khan, a senior anaesthetist at the Liaquat National Hospital, and Dr Shahab Yameen, the chief medical officer at the Qatar Hospital in Orangi. They all died on Nov 29.
Early in November, Prof Nizamul Hasan, a former National Institute of Child Health director and founder of the Child Aid Association, and Dr Nizamuddin Rajput, the chief medical officer at the DMC Central Hospital, also fell prey to Covid-19.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) four doctors died of the infection last month. They are: Dr Adnan Haleem, a medical student in Peshawar; Dr Muhammad Bashir, a former deputy medical superintendent at the King Abdullah Teaching Hospital, Mansehra; Dr Javed Iqbal, a former in-charge of the District TB Control Centre in Haripur; Dr Raja Asif, a medical officer at the Ayub Teaching Hospital in Abbottabad.
In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, Dr Sadiq Hussain, an associate professor in paediatrics at the Poonch Medical College Rawalakot and Dr Rizwan Abid, a consultant cardiologist in Muzaffarabad, died of Covid-19 in November.
In October, the list shows two doctors’ death in Punjab, four in Sindh and one in KP.
A total of 154 health professionals, 128 doctors and 26 paramedics have died of the coronavirus since March 3. Dr Usama Riaz, a Gilgit-Baltistan-based physician, was the first health professional to fall prey to the disease.
Strict enforcement of SOPs
Describing the situation as alarming, PMA general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad, who himself is recovering from Covid-19, said doctors were not getting proper protection, indicating an acute shortage of personal protective equipment.
“Doctors are forced to work in poor conditions. There are no checks at entry and exit points of healthcare facilities, increasing chances of infection among the staff,” he said, adding that doctors were often not provided with rooms to sit and relax after long duty hours.
He also spoke about the economic hardships being faced by doctors and said they were deprived of the risk allowance and the government was not even releasing their salaries on time.
“The Shuhada Package announced by the federal and provincial governments in September for the families of doctors dying of Covid-19 hasn’t been implemented yet,” he said.
“Currently, more than 3,000 doctors are in isolation and, on the other hand, the number of Covid-19 patients is increasing day by day, burdening hospitals and healthcare workers. There is a shortage of medical facilities due to which hospitals are refusing to take in new patients.”
On behalf of the association, he demanded the immediate provision of PPE, strict enforcement of SOPs or imposition of a lockdown based on a uniform policy.
He also called upon the government to reserve a few beds at each hospital for ailing doctors.