With the lockdown, people have been pushed back inside their homes. No one wants to risk being outdoors, for fear of contracting the Coronavirus. Yet the heroes who battle it out everyday, outside the comfort of their homes, outside the bounds of safety are none others than our heroes – doctors, sanitary workers, journalists, the police. All of them are risking their lives every day, only in order to protect the public from the deadly disease in the air. Voicepk.net pays tribute to these people, as everyday they are ON THE FRONTLINES.
Interviews by Haider Kaleem
“Isolation wards have been established in Battagram District and we are performing our duties despite a curfew. But it is very hard to raise awareness among the people here. At the same time, all of us have been concerned about inadequate safety measures.”
– Dr Fayaz Gul, Battagram
“At present, only those doctors working in the isolation wards have been provided PPE, but nothing has been given to those in the emergency wards where Corona patients are being admitted and tested. In the beginning of the outbreak, even those working in isolation wards did not have protective gear. Also WHO had given instructions to the Federal and provincial governments to be prepared in January but this was not followed. As a result a lot of healthcare providers were exposed to the virus and got sick especially in DG Khan, Lahore and Faisalabad.”
– Dr Salman Haseeb President YDA Punjab
“They think doctors just want to make money, but even in these times, working without protection – not even gloves – we never say no to any patient even if it means that we get infected. It doesn’t matter if the Government has given us safety equipment, we still monitor and test everyone.We received a notification from the government yesterday but again there was nothing about our own safety. Even in the important wards such as Emergency, Pulmonology, Surgical wards and ICUs, there are no surgical masks or sanitizers. Doctors have to use masks that are then sanitized and reused. It is not surprising that Dr Usama from Gilgit died battling coronavirus. Now Dr. Usama Hasana from DG Khan has been tested positive too.A surgical mask’s maximum time is 6 hours but we have been reusing ours for over a week– A doctor from Nishtar Hospital Multan
“The healthcare system here has always been terrible and we have been protesting too. It is quite clear if you look at all the tertiary hospitals of Balochistan: there are only 11 ventilators altogether. In this crisis we have no masks, caps or kits though more than 120 cases being reported.
We told the Government in a press conference that if healthcare providers get infected it would be almost impossible to work and battle the pandemic. Already two doctors were tested positive so now 20 members of their family also have to be quarantined.
Still there has been no positive response from the Balochistan government. I appeal to the Chief Justice of Balochistan to take notice of the situation because after the doctors there will be no second layer protecting the public.
YDA here has initiated a telemedicine service for people so that more people are served without putting them at risk.”
– Dr Yasir Achakzai, President YDA Balochistan
“At one of the tertiary care hospitals of the province, seven doctors got tested for COVID-19 with one result positive. This is like a suicide mission but we are still up for it to protect the lives of others. We are highly motivated because we have received a lot of love and respect from the people but we fear being left with no healthy doctors to serve at the hospitals if the Government does not provide us with safety measures.”
– Dr Muhabbat Khan Tareen, Bolan Medical Hospital
“Doctors have been literally begging and yelling for PPEs at the emergency wards of the Jinnah hospital, Lahore while the government’s official policy remains that only the doctors working in isolation wards will be provided with PPEs and not the doctors who get in contact with the patients in emergency wards. We may want to flatten the curve, but with this attitude, it does not seems very likely. I have received reports of two patients being tested positive in Nankana Sahib and 7 doctors were on duty with them without any safety equipment. Nevertheless, I think no human being can see anyone in pain, especially a doctor. We must fight this for our nation and for the country because it is our duty. We have taken a Hippocratic Oath and under that we must serve but this might be the first battle being fought in the history of Pakistan where the soldiers are being sent to ground without any weapon, and where they are just left to die.”
– A doctor at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore
“When I was posted to Port Qasim, Karachi, in the wake of the I went through constant abusive behavior at the hand of a Public health Officer. We were exposed to an unsafe working environment at the port. We were not provided transport to move from literally one corner of the country to another. The protective measures being provided to us were gravely deficient. There were no hand sanitizers and the N-95 masks were expired. The digital thermometers are out of order most of the time and stopped working while checking the crew of a ship.
But we are still going to serve our people wherever we are called on duty – for who else will? Our only concern is that if we get exposed like this then it might put our patients, family members and the whole community at risk.”
– Dr. Sanagar
“We got safety equipment with the help of YDA initially but nothing from the government or administration yet. We are trying to ensure that we do not get in contact with patients much but then we are still fully exposed to the virus. The whole world is fighting the pandemic and so are we but we cannot just survive and do our work in these horrible conditions under so much fear.”
– Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed, Jinnah Hospital Karachi
“We are doing the kind of work our armed forces have been doing at the borders. We come to the hospital knowingly to fight highly infectious disease, leaving our families behind. This includes nurses, paramedics, lab staff, technicians and it is our collective effort that every patient is given the best healthcare possible. When we fought dengue we asked for citizens’ cooperation. Once again we are asking for motivation and support for all the health care providers so that they don’t lose hope.”
– A senior doctor at Mayo Hospital
“We are doing our duties with all our heart but the resources we need do not seem to be enough for the future. Still our morale is high. District health officials have promised proper equipment to be provided very soon. All doctors, nurses, dispensers, technicians, janitors are not afraid for themselves but are only worried about the people who are getting infected by the coronavirus. We are all ready to risk our lives to help others even if it means doing so without the PPEs.”
-Dr Anzar, AMS of DHQ Chakwal
“We are fully equipped to deal with all kinds of medical equipment including 16 ventilators, screening mechanism and PPE kits to deal with and provide care to all kinds of patients infected with coronavirus. We have left behind everything, even our families to fight the virus and protect the people. People should follow instructions by the government and pray for healthcare workers who are at the frontline.”
-Dr Ihtesham, ICU, Bacha Khan Medical Complex, Swabi
“I’m working in one of the most affected districts of Pakistan. All this happened as pilgrims coming back to Pakistan thought they were tested for the virus when they actually only went through a screening process and they did not go into quarantine and kept meeting people in the community. The government should have been more vigilant earlier. We were not even provided the kinds of safety gear required to take care of coronavirus patients.
But the business community of Gilgit-Baltistan sent us kits, sanitizers, and important medicines while the government still seems to be absent. Talking about my school friend, Dr. Usama who passed away battling corona with only a single mask made us all very sad but we all now need to fight barehanded like him if required. Because we not only get a salary for this but it is our utmost duty as a human to save lives if we can.”
-Dr. Amjad Hussain, President YDA Nagar, Gilgit Baltistan
“Recently I had one of the most amazing encounter with law enforcement agencies. We were coming back from the hospital when our car was stopped by Sindh Police and Rangers at a road checkpoint. A police inspector came to me at the driver’s side and asked me about my identity. I told him that we were on-duty doctors and were heading home after our emergency duties. Upon hearing the word ‘doctors’ the cop became so happy that he began shouting to his colleagues ‘Oye idhar ajao sab, yahan doctors ai hain’ (Hey everyone, come here, we have some doctors with us!)
Then they surrounded our car and to my uttermost surprise they all gave us a proper Salute and standing-ovation for our services. He personally thanked us and appreciated our work.We were speechless. I have never imagined that we would receive such a response. It was a moving moment for all of us in the car.
The rangers, police officers and traffic constables – all raised their hands in praise, and I could not thank them enough as they too were doing a very difficult job.”– A doctor from Karachi