Punjab govt approves malaria drug for critically-ill Covid-19 patients

Updated 31 Mar 2020

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People stand in circles drawn with chalk to maintain safe distance outside a bank in Lahore on March 30. — Reuters
People stand in circles drawn with chalk to maintain safe distance outside a bank in Lahore on March 30. — Reuters

LAHORE: The Punjab government has allowed treatment of critically ill patients of Covid-19 with chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine besides expanding the capacity of beds across the province.

The government has procured 50,000 tablets of the two said medicines.

Mayo Hospital had earlier started using the drug on critical patients of Covid-19. China had also treated its critical patients suffering from the virus and the US has also allowed its use.

The decision was taken by the government after the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) of the US granted approval to using hydroxychloroquine, which is originally used to treat malaria.

“Our physicians have started medication of the seriously ill patients of coronavirus at the Mayo Hospital and initial reports suggest that the drug is yielding positive results,” unveiled Mayo Hospital Lahore Chief Executive Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan.

Two three-star hotels to be rented to isolate suspected cases

Talking to Dawn, he said the Mayo physicians were suggesting treatment of Covid-19 patients through chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, which had been provided in sufficient quantity by the Punjab government.

Meanwhile, the government planned to rent two three-star hotels in the city to use their rooms to isolate suspected patients of coronavirus.

It has also given permission to start outdoor services for suspected patients of coronavirus at the Mayo Hospital and the field hospital at Expo Centre. The decision was taken following a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases across the province.

The 1,000-bed Expo Centre Hospital has also been completed for patient management and will start functioning soon after the recruitment of 1,900 doctors, nurses and paramedics.

On Monday, Dr Khan said, Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid reviewed final arrangements at the Expo Centre and addressed the staff, including doctors, to motivate them for this daunting task. Dr Khan has also been appointed as administrator of the Expo Centre Hospital.

“We have divided the 1,000-bed Expo Centre Hospital into three portions for the patients,” he explained.

Two portions will be used to isolate mild and severe patients of the disease separately. The third potion will be used for seriously ill patients, he said, adding that a 50-bed high dependency unit had also been made fully functional with ventilators.

“We have deputed highly trained medics and other staff for triage site at the Expo Centre, while Rescue 1122 has been hired to shift patients to this facility from all over the province,” he added.

He further said that Fatima Jinnah Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Aamir Zeman Khan was conducting interviews to recruit 1,900 doctors, nurses and paramedics for the Expo Centre Hospital.

“For the first time, we are going to start OPD service for suspected coronavirus patients only [at Mayo and Expo Centre hospitals],” said Dr Khan.

He also said the Mayo Hospital OPD has become the largest set-up for coronavirus in Punjab with 500 more beds added to the isolation and quarantine wards here. The patients testing positive at the OPD here would be shifted to the Expo Centre Hospital, he added.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020