off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

“Give due respect to the
Healthcare Professionals”

Have you ever seen the soldiers fighting on the frontlines without proper equipment but this can only happen in Pakistan where Healthcare professionals fighting the COVID19 Pandemic were asked to treat these patients putting their own lives at risk? When they demanded the Personal Protection Equipments like N95 masks and proper dress they were beaten, arrested and put in Jail. The images of doctors being mercilessly beaten, dragged on the roads by the law enforcing agencies in Quetta, then herded into waiting police vans and sent to jail has tarnished the image of the Government of Pakistan tremendously. Police personnel posted at the Health Secretariat at Lahore also manhandled the protesting doctors but fortunately better sense prevailed on some police high ups and they immediately intervened and intelligently controlled the situation and allowed the doctors to register their protest.1-2

Over two dozen healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, and paramedics have been infected with COVID19 at Punjab Institute of Cardiology. The number of HCPs infected at Nishtar Medical University and its affiliated hospital is over three dozen. Similarly many doctors, nurses and paramedics working in other healthcare facilities all over Paksitan had got infection while treating these patients in Intensive Care Units, Isolation Wards, Quarantine and some have also lost their lives. A young doctor from Gilgit Baltistan Dr. Osama was the first young doctor to have sacrificed his life while looking after these patients. Then the news of tragic death of Dr. Soomro came who was put on Ventilator at Indus Hospital in Karachi but could not survive.3 The demand by the HCPs to provide these much needed PPEs is not unjustified and the authorities should have acted more efficiently when it had become evident that we are going to face these crisis in the coming months but comments like “Those doctors who care more for their lives should resign and go home” are not going to pacify the sentiments of these healthcare professionals.

Performance of the Punjab Health Department came under severe criticism not only from the opposition but also from an important leader of PTI Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi which forced the Punjab Health Minister to rush to Multan and have first hand information of the state of affairs there. NDMA did rush PPEs to Baluchistan immediately and has also initiated other measures to help HCPs, Healthcare facilities all over Paksitan. In fact it was heartening to note when Advisor on Health to Prime Minister Dr. Zafar Mirza had immediately rushed to Taftan when the Zaireens came from Iran but either he does not know about Isolation and Quarantine or no one paid any heed to his advice because the images of these Zaireens herded together in small rooms was highly disappointing. It was perhaps one of the reasons why he had to face severe criticism from the superior judiciary. If this was not enough, Government allowed these Zaireens to go to their homes without proper tests with the result that they spread this infection to their fellow countrymen wherever they went. Failure to timely seal the international borders and convincing religious leaders to postpone their Ijtimah at Raiwind also contributed to the spread of this infection.

It is also a fact that healthcare professionals all over the world dealing with this pandemic have suffered from infection, are protesting the non-availability of these PPEs but they are neither beaten nor arrested. Doctors need to be given due respect and in the present situation their services needs to be commended and appreciated much more. The recent protest by the doctors particularly the young doctors is also the result of some simmering discomfort for the last many years as their repeated requests for improvement of working environment, safety at the working place, proper incentives and benefits have remained unfulfilled. People have not yet forgotten the ransacking of Punjab Institute of Cardiology and closure of this institution, services for many days after this tragic incident which was yet another proof of incompetence of the provincial government. Strike by the doctors can never be supported as they take oath to serve the ailing humanity but they should also not be forced for such drastic steps. Recently after negotiations the Punjab Government agreed to take all the stake holders into confidence before implementing any health reforms but then backed out of this promise when it pushed through the Punjab Assembly the controversial MTI Ordinance. Earlier similar legislation had been passed in KPK. A vast majority of the healthcare professionals have serious reservations about these measures which they feel amounts to privatization of the health services. If the idea is to improve the functioning, the government should introduce these reforms in all other sectors as well like bureaucracy, Police, Revenue and administrative services. Why this special treatment is reserved for the doctors only? The situation needs to be handled very carefully, engaging all the stakeholders otherwise one might see another “Eice Mohammad” emerging on the health scene and then what happens is history well known to the government functionaries and the bureaucracy in particular but our tragedy is that we have never learnt any lesson from our past mistakes. They should also remember that unhappy doctors and nurses can never ensure patient safety either.

The crisis of COVID19 pandemic is not yet over. We may be facing a very serious crisis in the coming months as the public is reluctant to follow the lockdown guidelines and other precautionary measures. Hence the philanthropists instead of making any donations to various funds will be well advised to prefer donating these PPEs for the healthcare professionals who are doing their best to take care of these infected patients. An eminent industrialist Mian Mansha who also owns the MCB Bank Limited has set a unique example of donating these PPEs worth ten million rupees which were handed over to Prof. Yasmin Raashid the Punjab Health Minister recently.


  1. Doctors protesting lack of safety gear thrashed. Daily DAWN April 7 2020. Page-1.
  2. YDA threatens hunger strike after storming secretariat. Daily DAWN April 18th 2020. Page-2. 
  3. Noted Doctor dies of Coronavirus. Daily DAWN April 17, 2020. Metro Page-13.
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