KARACHI: Most major hospitals in Karachi closed their outpatient departments (OPDs) as the coronavirus count rose exponentially over the past few weeks. This added to the worries of those ailing from diseases other than COVID-19, as well as their families.
However, talking to The Express Tribune on Wednesday, the managements of many hospitals in the metropolis clarified that patients who needed immediate medical care, including those suffering from severe injuries, were still being treated at the health care facilities.
They could visit the facilities anytime, the hospitals' spokespersons maintained.
In fact, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) executive director Dr Seemin Jamali even went on to say that all OPDs at JPMC were kept open. "The number of patients visiting OPDs, however, has declined drastically due to the lockdown," she pointed out.
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On the other hand, she said, the number of patients coming to the emergency ward had risen, while patients from other public and private hospitals were being transferred to JPMC as well.
The management of Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital also highlighted the drop in OPD patients. Around 7,000 patients used to visits the OPDs at the hospital every day, against an average of 2,000 visiting at present, said the hospital's medical superintendent, Dr Khadim Hussain Qureshi.
He maintained that all of the hospital's OPDs, except those dealing in gynaecology, medicine, hepatitis and chest-related diseases, were closed, adding that patients were now being diverted to other wards, including the trauma centre.
"Our doctors have been coming up with smart ways to deal with patients in this time of crisis as we want to minimise the rush at the hospital," he said, adding, "It is open for everyone." Those in need of urgent care could visit the hospital any time, he assured.
Meanwhile, grasping the emerging health crisis in the city, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has launched an on-phone consultancy service. A setup has been established at the PMA House on MA Jinnah Road for patients, as well as their families and attendants, to call and get guidance and advice from doctors.
Speaking in this regard, PMA Karachi chapter general secretary Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro said, "We realise the restriction on movement and inability of people to visit hospitals during the ongoing lockdown and the suspension of public transport." With all the OPDs in the city being closed, providing medical advice to citizens on phone was the best available option, he added.
Those who approached the PMA and were found in critical condition were referred to tertiary care hospitals, Dr Shoro said.
The remote assistance is also recommended as a precautionary measure against contracting the virus, especially when local transmission cases are on a rise.
Staff tests positive
The recommendation particularly rang true when the first floor of Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital was sealed on Tuesday as one of its staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, doctors and other staff deployed on the floor were shifted to an isolation ward themselves and their samples were collected for screening.
However, Dr Qureshi later confirmed that all others had tested negative.
According to the hospital's management, the staff member who tested positive for the contagion is a resident of Lyari who did not contract the virus at the hospital.
"He interacted with his relatives and friends and was likely infected by someone in his neighbourhood," claimed Dr Qureshi.