Islamabad, Pakistan – Police in the city of Quetta, southwest Pakistan, have arrested at least 50 doctors protesting the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers at the forefront of the country’s battle against the corona virus, officials and medical union representatives. the word.
Representatives from the Young Doctors Association (YDA), which organized the protest, said at least 67 members were arrested on Monday.
Exemption orders have been issued for those detained, said Dr Rahim Khan Babar, a YDA spokesman, but they refused to leave the police station where they were detained until their demands for additional PPE kits were fulfilled.
“I was arrested yesterday, I am still at the police station,” Babar told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
“They have given orders for our release, but we refuse to leave, because no steps have been taken. The doctor goes out to buy equipment, and you hit them and lock him up. What kind of law is that?”
Video footage from Monday’s protest showed dozens of doctors holding up slogans and criticizing the provincial government. Shortly after, police intervened to end the protest, clashed with several demonstrators and detained a dozen.
On Tuesday, doctors across the province went on strike on a non-critical care ward to protest the arrest and lack of equipment, Babar said.
The number of corona virus cases in Pakistan rose sharply on Monday, with 584 additional cases bringing the number of active state cases to 3,378, with 54 deaths and at least 429 patients having recovered since the outbreak began in late February, according to government data.
Pakistan has been struggling to provide adequate PPE kits to doctors during the outbreak, with orders for additional equipment often mired in stacks created by increasing global demand, government officials told Al Jazeera.
Doctors are vulnerable to viruses
Quetta is the capital of Balochistan, the largest province in Pakistan but the least populous and poorest, which has been disturbed by some of the lowest socioeconomic indicators in the country for years.
The doctor said the lack of government preparedness had caused dangerous conditions for health workers in large hospitals.
“At the trauma center, before coronavirus, we had enough kits so that if we operated in the operating room, we had masks and surgical caps,” said Babar, who works at a public sector hospital. “Now we don’t even have it.”
Babar said the lack of kits meant that only health professionals who were placed in specialized coronavirus wards had access to basic protective equipment, leaving doctors working on other wards vulnerable to the spread of highly contagious viruses.
So far, at least 18 doctors have been infected with the corona virus in Balochistan, according to government data. In total, the province has recorded 202 cases, with one death and 63 patients recovering from the virus.
Government officials, however, claim there are sufficient PPE kits at hospitals appointed to deal with coronavirus patients, and that Monday’s protests are more focused on ongoing contractual disputes.
Liaquat Shahwani, a spokesman for the provincial government, said the dispute was being resolved, and that the provincial government was recruiting 1,400 doctors to address the increasing needs during the corona virus crisis.
“The Balochistan government has provided [doctors] with adequate masks, equipment and medicines, “Shahwani said.” There is only one hospital in all of Balochistan that deals with coronavirus patients – the Sheikh Zayed hospital [in Quetta] – and we have provided all the equipment there. “
The government said it had provided 2,000 PPE kits, 50,000 N95 face masks, 32,000 surgical masks and 1,000 headgear to the provincial hospital. On Tuesday, the Pakistani military said it would send more PPE tools to help doctors in Balochistan.
Emergency supplies of medical equipment including PPE were sent to Quetta on the orders of the COAS to help medical staff fight Covid-19 effectively in Balochistan. “Doctors & paramedics are frontline soldiers in this war …” (1/2)
– DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) April 7, 2020
Balochistan became the center of the country’s first virus spread, with at least 1,123 (29 percent) of all cases throughout the country can be traced to quarantine camp in Taftan on the Pakistan-Iran border.
However, in recent days, Pakistan has seen a marked increase in local virus transmission among people who have no travel history or contact history with someone who has traveled, government data shows.
At least 21.4 percent of cases across the country – and more than 30 percent of cases in Balochistan – can now be traced to local transmission.
Meanwhile, patients say a doctor strike in Balochistan means people who are in dire need of not receiving the care they need.
“No senior doctors, or young doctors, or other staff came,” said Noor Muhammad Kurd, whose brother is a heart patient at the main government hospital in Quetta.
“Even patients in very serious conditions are not treated.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweeted @AsadHashim. Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]