KARACHI: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has requested Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to shift Covid-19 patients kept in home isolation to government isolation centres to prevent them from becoming carriers of the virus, while also asking for benefits for medical staff similar to those announced in Punjab.
A PMA delegation met the CM on Saturday, asking him not to transfer coronavirus patients to the isolation centres established at tertiary care hospitals, pointing out that there was a risk that they could infect the staff and other patients there.
Moreover, they requested Shah to announce risk allowances and pay raises for the doctors, paramedics and other staff serving on the frontlines. "We demanded that he provide benefits similar to those announced by the Punjab government for its doctors," a doctor told The Express Tribune.
The PMA members further stated that the provincial government should declare the doctors who have lost their lives in the war against the pandemic as 'Shaheed,' as the Punjab government was doing.
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Moreover, the delegation also appealed to the CM to provide every doctor with safety kits, whether they were working at public hospitals or dealing with patients in their private clinics.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, PMA's Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, who was part of the delegation, said that most of the doctors posted at isolation centres and hospitals that had fallen sick were young. "These doctors have just started their careers, they were risking their lives and they need the government's support," he said
Another doctor who attended the meeting explained that there were nearly 45,000 doctors in the province and acknowledged that providing kits to all the practitioners would be a challenge for the government. "We do not ask the government to provide free safety kits to the doctors," he said. "But the government should ensure the availability of kits so the doctors can easily purchase and use them for their safety."
According to one of the doctors, the CM did not say whether his government would act on these requests.
During the meeting, the delegation also suggested to Shah and Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho to establish laboratories at the district level, while refraining from shifting patients to Karachi from other districts, claiming that this could put the patients' lives at risk.
The CM apprised the meeting that he was establishing isolation centres and field hospitals all over Sindh, adding that they were utilising newly-constructed buildings belonging to the health and education department for quarantining people. Moreover, he said, they were planning to set up marquees on open grounds as isolation centres.
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Shah further informed the doctors that there were four categories of Covid-19 patients: those who came by air, pilgrims from Iran, members of the Tableeghi Jamaat and those who had contracted the virus through local transmission.
"We succeeded in isolating pilgrims at Sukkur and Tableeghi Jamaat members in different districts," he said. "But the people who came by air went unchecked and infected others, and now we are facing an outbreak in slums and katchi abadis."
Shah told the PMA members that he had wanted the government to impose a country-wide lockdown from March 15, but had failed to bring the federal and other provincial governments on the same page. As a result, he maintained, the lockdown was delayed.