KARACHI: A senior doctor, who was tested positive for Covid-19 earlier last week and put on a ventilator a couple of days ago after his condition deteriorated, passed away on Monday. He became the first health worker to succumb to the deadly coronavirus in Sindh, fanning concerns among health professionals who have been vigorously demanding steps for the protection of their colleagues, officials and sources said.

Dr Abdul Qadir Soomro, 64, breathed his last in the Indus Hospital, where he was moved to ventilator after his coronavirus symptoms started worsening. His colleagues and friends were not sure how he actually came into contact with the virus, but agreed that he was actively involved in treating people till a day before he fell ill.

“Dr Soomro was a former medical officer of the Pakistan Steel Mills and respected in the fraternity for his very good medical practice in different private facilities of Malir district,” said Dr Abdul Malik of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA). Dr Soomro was also a former president of PIMA’s Sindh chapter.

Among the confirmed cases, around a dozen doctors and healthcare workers from different health facilities have tested positive for the coronavirus in Sindh.

Some of his colleagues and friends doubt that Dr Soomro, who was a skin specialist, contracted the viral infection from any of his patients in Gulshan-i-Hadeed, where so far three patients have tested positive for the virus.

On the other hand, health officials in Sindh claimed that several doctors were putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus by conducting OPDs and examining patients without having personal protective equipment (PPE), saying that due to an extreme shortage of PPE, it was only being provided to the staff at the isolation centres and the emergencies of hospitals.

The Sindh health department has already placed a ban on conducting OPDs at all the hospitals and clinics in Malir district, after Dr Soomro and three other persons tested positive, fearing the further spread of the coronavirus in the area.

A notification issued by the district health officer of Malir last week said that a complete ban had been imposed on OPDs at all hospitals in Gulshan-i-Hadeed, but emergencies at the hospitals would remain open and staff of all health facilities would remain present for their duties.

Dr Azeemuddin, the PIMA president in Karachi, called Dr Soomro’s death a great loss and asked the government to enhance its capacity and effort to fight the pandemic.

“As for PPE, we are trying on our own to help our fraternity to some extent and in this regard have provided PPE to several hospitals in collaboration with the Dua Foundation,” he said. “But this task is so huge that it can only be completed by the state and not by any organisation. So we appeal to the government to support their front-line soldiers in this fight.”

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2020

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