KARACHI: Outpatient department services at most hospitals in the city, including some public sector hospitals, have been closed since last week, although the government has not notified OPDs’ closure even for the 15-day lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus, it emerged on Sunday.

Speaking to Dawn, a health department official said the government had not notified closure of OPDs and that hospitals were required to run them according to the advisory sent to them.

“It’s important that hospitals keep OPDs open during the lockdown period. What is required from hospitals, both in the public and private sector, is to follow the health advisory shared with them,” said health department spokesperson Atif Vighio.

Pointing to government directives for the lockdown, he said people should avoid going out unnecessarily and in case they needed medical help, there should be one attendant with a patient.

It may be recalled that the government had issued an advisory to all public and private sector hospitals in the province following a meeting of the task force on Covid-19 on March 17.

Health dept asks hospitals to follow the advisory sent to them

The advisory directs hospital administrations to take series of measures to prevent spread of the virus and ensure protection of their staff.

“All medical OPDs, including that of obstetric care, shall not be closed. Only emergency surgeries as well as surgeries for carcinomas shall be entertained. Crowding of people shall be strictly avoided. Every person may be counselled for keeping a distance of one metre for seating,” said the advisory.

It also directed healthcare facilities to postpone all elective surgeries and procedures till further orders, implement an effective triage at the OPDs, follow one attendant with one patient policy, carry out effective disinfection of hospitals three times a day and provide masks to all staff members.

“All doctors and paramedics shall remain on duty and/or on call during the course of global emergency of Covid-19. There should be a health desk for awareness and screening of Covid-19 in all hospitals.

“The deputy commissioner concerned, as per provisions of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act 2014, may exercise his authority to ensure that all these measures are in place to prevent spread of Covid-19 and the Sindh Healthcare Commission shall ensure implementation of all advisories issued for all public and private sector hospitals in the province,” it said.

JPMC OPD to resume work tomorrow

When contacted, Executive Director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Dr Seemin Jamali said OPD services had been available at the hospital over the week and that no specific directives had been issued for the lockdown period.

“The entire staff will resume their duties on Tuesday. We didn’t have an OPD today and won’t have one tomorrow because it’s a public holiday,” she said.

The JPMC, she said, had taken a series of measures to avoid crowding at the hospital and the staff also try to counsel patients that they should not visit hospitals for minor illnesses.

Sources said confusion over OPD services was created after a section of the media reported early this week that OPD services had been closed down. A spokesperson of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation said the OPD services had been temporarily suspended and would be restored soon whereas an official at the Indus Hospital said OPDs were continuing.

“We haven’t suspended OPD services at all. There was no government notification on their closure. However, the hospital has decided to limit OPD services from Tuesday,” said Dr Shamvil Ashraf of the Indus Hospital.

No official of the Civil Hospital Karachi was available for comments.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2020

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