Emergency supplies of medical equipment to fight Covid-19 being dispatched to Quetta: ISPR

Updated April 07, 2020

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Young doctors protest against the unavailability of personal protective equipment in Quetta on Monday, April 6. — DawnNewsTV/File
Young doctors protest against the unavailability of personal protective equipment in Quetta on Monday, April 6. — DawnNewsTV/File

Emergency supplies of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment (PPEs), are being dispatched to Quetta on orders of the chief of army staff "to help medical staff fight Covid-19 effectively in Balochistan", said the army's media wing on Tuesday.

“Doctors and paramedics are the frontline soldiers in this war. Most advanced nations/govts are finding it extremely difficult to fight this pandemic," COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was quoted as saying by Inter-services Public Relations via Twitter.

"Pakistan government is striving hard to acquire and supply the required resources. In this hour of distress, we must remain patient and steadfast,” added Bajwa.

The directive comes a day after young doctors and paramedics gathered on the premises of Civil Hospital Quetta and protested against the health authorities for not supplying safety gears and other preventive items to the doctors performing duty in hospitals.

Police said 30 doctors had been arrested for taking out a protest really in violation of Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure imposed by the Balochistan government in the provincial capital in connection with the lockdown.

According to YDA, however, more than 100 doctors and health workers were arrested.

Speaking to Dawn today, Dr Rahim, a spokesman for the YDA, said that that the arrested doctors will not leave the police stations until their demands were met and they were provided with protective gear.

According to president of YDA's Balochistan chapter Dr Yasir Achakzai, 15 doctors in the province had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus so far but the government still had not supplied protective equipment.

"On one hand, the coronavirus is killing us and on the other, police are beating us up," Achakzai said.

A day earlier, Achakzai said they were baton-charged by security forces, adding that "dozens" were arrested near the Red Zone. Police had denied beating up the doctors.

As matters escalated, a few members of the Balochistan Assembly reached the venue and tried to negotiate with the protesting doctors and paramedic staff.

Later in the day, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Alyani said that he had met the YDA doctors and had assured them of his government's full cooperation in their battle against Covid-19 and in meeting their demands.

'Doctors were arrested for their own protection'

Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani announced in a press conference that the demands of the protesting doctors had been met.

Commenting on Monday's events, he said that doctors had been arrested "for their own protection".

He said that the doctors "were moving towards the CM Secretariat in crowd".

"Our district administration, our police urged the doctors to return for the sake of their own health and that the government will fulfil their demands. They (doctors) were told that you are not observing social distancing [which is vital] to curb the spread of the coronavirus," Shahwani said.

"They did not listen and so, for the sake of their protection, they were arrested for only one hour."

The government spokesperson added that even though all the doctors had been released, they have refused to leave the police stations.

He regretted that the doctors had violated Section 144 of the CrPC without thinking the impression it would leave on the public.

"[The public] would think that if doctors are moving as a crowd without being exposed to danger, why would it threaten us? They will leave their homes too [...] The point of imposing a lockdown will be lost and we will not be able to control the outbreak of the coronavirus in the province."

Shahwani added: "We appeal to the doctors to [follow] the code of conduct followed globally, due to which they are called healers. Healers do not abandon their patients in hospitals and come out on roads to protest for their rights, especially when the chief minister had held talks with them."

Protest

The young doctors and paramedics gathered on the premises of Civil Hospital Quetta and started protest against the health authorities for not supplying safety gears and other preventive items to the doctors performing duty in hospitals. They were carrying placards and banners inscribed with demands, including removal of the health secretary and special health secretary.

They chanted slogans against the provincial authorities, came out of the hospital premises and stated moving towards the Officers Club where the provincial cabinet was in meeting. Police blocked the road leading to the club.

The protesting doctors and health workers tried to break the cordon which led to a clash between them and police personnel. Some protesters were injured when police used batons against them. Police also arrested dozens of protesting doctors.

A spokesman for the Balochistan government termed the doctors’ protest unjustified and claimed that the government had provided the required safety gears to all doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health workers performing duty in quarantine centres and isolation wards. “We do not understand the protest by the doctors who were not performing duties in quarantine centres and isolation wards of Sheikh Zayed and Fatima Jinnah Chest hospitals,” Liaquat Shahwani had said.

However, he said, the government had assured the protesting doctors that they would also be provided safety gears, adding that doctors had the right to criticise the government, but should not stop performing duties. He said China was also facing shortage of safety gears, adding that the National Disaster Management Authority had supplied 50,000 N-95 masks which the health department was distributing among the doctors.