LAHORE: The alarming situation at Nishtar Hospital, Multan does not seem to be abating anytime soon, as 18 doctors out of the 63 isolated on Saturday tested positive for the virus on Sunday, and the number of suspected medics and nurses reached at least 160.

Swabs of more doctors and nurses from the intensive care unit (ICU), nephrology, medical and emergency departments of the hospital were sent to the institution’s own lab after their 18 colleagues were declared Covid-19 positive.

Tension further prevailed among the medics when they were informed that allegedly 40 more doctors had tested positive for coronavirus, but their reports were not being released.

The Punjab chief minister took notice of the situation in Nishtar Hospital and directed the health authorities to ensure provision of protective kits to the health professionals at state-run hospitals of the province. He also sought a report from the health secretary regarding the facilities provided to doctors and nurses, saying that no negligence would be tolerated in the provision of safety to them since they were fighting as frontline workers.

VC says swabs of 160 health workers, including 130 doctors, sent for test

An official privy to the information said the total number of doctors exposed to the coronavirus is at least 200. Of them, over 60 medics from the medical unit II had come in direct contact with infected patients, while others were from the ICU, emergency, nephrology medical unit ward 10 and the camp housing suspected patients.

The official claimed that more doctors were found infected with coronavirus, but their test reports were being held to avoid uncertainty within the health professionals.

However, the medics and nurses who tested positive have been shifted to the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital in Muzaffargarh and were concerned about their families who have been in close contact with them.

Nishtar Medical University Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mustafa Kamal Pasha confirmed that the swabs of nearly 160 health professionals, including 130 doctors, have been sent for testing. As they were working in various wards of the hospital housing infected patients, the chance of exposure to the virus increased manifold.

“The institution has provided them a sufficient quantity of personal protective equipments (PPEs),” he claimed while rejecting allegations of some medics of not being facilitated with the kits. “We are providing PPEs to only those who are directly attending patients of coronavirus under standard operating procedures.”

To a question, he claimed that so far 18 health professionals have tested positive for the virus, including 12 doctors. The institute had placed an order for the procurement of more PPEs after it received funds of Rs100 million from the Punjab government to meet the requirements of doctors, he added.

Our Staff Correspondent from Multan adds: The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Multan chapter demanded the chief minister declare an emergency after 12 doctors and six paramedics tested positive for Covid-19 at Nishtar Hospital.

Addressing a press conference here on Sunday, the PMA office-bearers, led by its president Dr Masoodur Rauf Haraj, said: “The medical staff that is serving on the front line is not being provided with the N-95 masks because of which the lives of doctors, nurses and paramedics are at stake.”

The Young Doctors Association (YDA) demanded the resignation of Dr Pasha and Nishtar Medical Superintendent Dr Shahid Bukhari after, they claimed, 150 more doctors, nurses and paramedics were isolated on Sunday.

Young Nurses Association President Saima Ansari complained about the lack of space at the hospital for health workers exposed to the virus. “Swabs of only four out of 12 nurses of Ward No 11 were collected while not even a single nurse of nephrology ward was tested and all of them have been sent home,” she said.

VC Dr Pasha said about 100 doctors and paramedics will be tested on Monday (today). The doctors, paramedics and nurses who tested negative will join their duties from Monday.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2020