Pakistan: Celebrities, charities provide safety kits to doctors

Panic grows amid rising number of coronavirus cases among doctors, nurses

Pakistan: Celebrities, charities provide safety kits to doctors

Pakistani celebrities and relief agencies have joined hands to provide safety gears to the young medical professionals, who have been at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus.

As the country's coronavirus tally continues to surge, many of the doctors, nurses and paramedics are still working without proper protective equipment at several government-run and private hospitals, raising concerns for their safety.

Asim Jofa, the country's leading fashion designer, is preparing 5,000 personal protective equipment for the health professionals who have been working with ordinary masks and draped in plastic sheets due to limited government stocks.

Designed by himself, Jofa has already handed over 400 pieces of protective equipment to Jinnah Post Medical Graduate Center (JPMC) Karachi, one of the largest medical facilities of the country.

"Footages and images from Spain, where doctors and nurses draped in garbage bags were treating the coronavirus patients, spurred me to come forward and do something for our doctors and nurses as our healthcare system is much weaker than that of European countries," Jofa told Anadolu Agency.

Following guidelines from JPMC administration, he has designed a bodysuit, which can easily be stitched, even at homes.

"I am uploading the design [of safety suit] on my website. Anyone can pick that from there and stitch the suit for the healthcare professionals," he said, adding: "It's so simple as even women sitting at homes can stitch that for doctors and nurses working in the remote areas."

Dua Foundation, a Karachi-based charity, which took the initiative, has also provided thousands of protective equipment to the medical professional, mainly at public sector hospitals in southern Sindh province, of which Karachi is the capital.

"Our organization is purely concentrating on providing protective equipment, and other essential products to the medical professionals, who are our frontline defenders. We cannot afford to expose this frontline to the coronavirus," Dr Faiyaz Alam, the foundation's secretary, said while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

The foundation is collaborating with Al-Khidmat Foundation, one of the largest charities the country, and Pakistan Islamic Medical Association to provide the medical equipment at government-run hospitals.

Al-Khidmat Foundation, the relief wing of country's mainstream religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Jafria Disaster Management Cell are also providing protective equipment, medical-grade N-95 respirators, and other equipment to doctors and nurses across Pakistan.

In northeastern Lahore city, Umer Hussain, the owner of a famous eatery, has turned his business site into a unit for production of safety suits for doctors. He has already delivered 200 suits each to the major public hospital in Lahore and intends to prepare a total of 20,000 suites for the medical professionals

"We have established a network of doctors, who are voluntarily working with us. We have made the lists of all the people in the hospitals who might get exposed to the virus including doctors, nurses, and even janitorial staff. We are giving the safety suits directly to these people," Hussain told Anadolu Agency.

Panic grows

The death of two young doctors and contraction of the virus by several others, while screening and treating the coronavirus patients at different hospitals in the last two weeks, has eked out a growing sense of fear and insecurity among the medical professionals.

Police, in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Balochistan province, baton-charged and arrested over two dozen health professionals on Monday when they staged a sit-in near the Chief Minister House demanding safety gears for doctors and nurses screening and treating the coronavirus patients.

The protesters said they were promised by the government authorities for provision of safety gears but to no avail.

Supporting doctors' protest, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), a nationwide body of medical professionals, accused the government of negligence in dealing with the matter.

"We have long warned the government that the issue of doctors' safety will assume an alarming proportion. Doctors and nurses working without safety kits are fast contracting the virus", Dr. Qaisar Sajjad, the secretary-general of PMA, told Anadolu Agency.

"It [government] must understand that if doctors and nurses themselves are admitted to the ICU [intensive care unit], then who will treat the patients," he said, adding: "Situation in Sindh, and Balochistan is worse."

Also, in Punjab, the country's most populous province, medical professionals have long been complaining of the shortage of protective equipment, which has already resulted in the contraction of coronavirus by several doctors and nurses.

"A total of 30 health workers tested positive for the coronavirus in Punjab, including 20 doctors. Another batch of 30 doctors are waiting for their results. The month of April is very crucial for us," Salman Haseeb, the president of Young Doctor's Association Punjab, told Anadolu Agency.

The government, he added, had provided safety kits to only those doctors who were working in isolation wards, whereas rest of the doctors, nurses, and paramedics working in emergency wards had nothing to protect themselves.

"We have distributed a total of 15,000 safety gears across Punjab, of which 5,000 were donated by former Chief Minister and Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif, 6,000 by the families of doctors and 4,000 we managed at our own," he added.

Endorsing Haseeb's view, Alam said: "No doubt, the individuals, and relief agencies have done a great job but they cannot be an alternative to state machinery. The government must act on a war-footing basis to provide essential safety equipment to the health professionals to avoid a tragedy."

A Health Ministry official, however, claimed the safety gear issue was blown out of proportion.

"To provide protective equipment to doctors and nurses, who are our frontline fighters in the battle against the coronavirus, is our priority. We have sent equipment to all the provinces and will send more in coming days," Sajid Shah, a Health Ministry spokesman told Anadolu Agency.

"Some circles are playing politics on this issue," he contended.