The Health Department has directed public medical colleges and hospitals in the city to appoint eight doctors each to man a new helpline for dengue, but doctors feel they are overqualified for the job.
“Prevention and control of dengue fever requires a multi-pronged strategy and multi-sectoral approach.
The Government of the Punjab, Health Department, in collaboration with the Punjab Information Technology Board, has devised a health-line,” reads a notification issued by the Health Department.
The department directed the principals of autonomous medical institutions and the medical superintendents of public hospitals in Lahore to nominate eight doctors (medical officers or house officers) each to be appointed to work at the TRG Centre in Thokar Niaz Beg. The helpline will be open 24 hours a day.
Doctors criticised the government plan.
Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Punjab General Secretary Dr Abrar Ashraf Ali said that the helpline would just be giving out information on preventive measures against dengue, which is something that any person could do with a little training.
“You don’t need to appoint doctors to do the work of operators. They can do it very well,” he said.
Senior professors, wishing to remain anonymous, said that a doctor’s job was diagnosis and treatment, which was impossible over the phone anyway.
“If someone tells a doctor over the phone that he’s vomiting blood, what can the doctor can tell him without examining him?” said one professor.
A senior professor at King Edward Medical University said that there was already a shortage of doctors at public hospitals.
“If more doctors are taken out to serve as call operators, it will not improve the situation,” he said.
The medical superintendent of a public hospital said that the Health Department should have consulted doctors before making the announcement. He said that women doctors who worked at the helpline were likely to get harassed. “You cannot appoint lady doctors to work at the helpline. A lot of nonsense calls will pour in and people will misbehave with them which will open another Pandora’s Box,” he said.
A Health Department official rejected the doctors’ criticisms. He said that the helpline’s aim was to raise awareness of preventive measures against dengue and the doctors would get training from experts before being put on calls.
He said doctors had more expertise on the subject and would therefore be better able to help callers.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.