KARACHI: Even though the rapid spread of Covid-19 poses a risk to the entire population, nurses and paramedical staff are the first ones to be exposed to infected patients. However, they are not being actively screened for the virus.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Sindh Young Nurses Association (SYNA) president Aijaz Ali Kaleri said that though over 35 nurses in the province have tested positive for coronavirus, their health and safety did not seem to be a priority for the authorities.
“We have been demanding from day one that nurses should be given personal protective equipment (PPE) on an emergency basis.
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Unfortunately, however, they have not been provided with the gear. We request the Sindh government to immediately screen nurses for the virus,” he said.
Apart from the negligence shown toward their safety, Kaleri added that there was a severe shortage of nurses in the province because of which those present are being overburdened.
“About 2,300 registered nurses are working in different government hospitals of Sindh, while the health department has allocated 3,700 posts for nurses in the province. At present, there are 1,000 vacancies for nurses in government hospitals,” he said. “On the other hand, given the increasing number of Covid-19 patients, government hospitals are facing an acute shortage of nurses due to which patients are also being severely affected.”
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He added that the health department receives a budget according to the approved posts, but the money is not being utilised for its real purpose.
“Six months ago, the health department announced that it would recruit 1,500 nurses for government hospitals and for this purpose, around 8,000 nurses took the Public Service Commission examination. Of these, 2,300 nurses passed the written test,” he said. “These nurses have not been interviewed yet due to the spread of Covid-19, so they cannot be formally included in the workforce. However, the health department has temporarily hired 1,000 nurses who passed the written test for three months.”
Kaleri said that the Pakistan Young Nurses Federation demanded that the Sindh government add at least 10,000 new posts for nurses in the immediate budget. A formula for the purpose was also approved a year ago, under which over a thousand nurses were to be promoted to the next grade. The step, however, could not be implemented.
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“The health professional allowance for nurses has been delayed in the cabinet for a year and unfortunately the nurses have not been promoted.”
Kaleri also asked the government to celebrate the International Nurses Day, adding that two nurses had embraced martyrdom while fighting the coronavirus in Pakistan but their sacrifices were ignored.
“Noman, a nurse working at Dr Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi was under treatment in the intensive care unit of the hospital where he succumbed to the deadly virus. SYNA and Pakistan Young Nursing Federation (PNF) salute his valour and courage,” he said.
Kaleri further demanded that doctors and paramedics who have lost their lives to the coronavirus should be given the status of martyrs and their families should be offered relief packages.
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“SYNA is proud of nurses fighting on the frontline to serve the nation while risking their own lives,” said Kaleri. “Nearly 150 nurses in Pakistan have contracted the virus, still, they are striving hard and performing their duties without PPE. The PNF strongly demands the government to make arrangements for celebrating International Nurses Day on May 12 under the prevalent situation to uplift their spirits.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 8th, 2020.