Increased testing capacity, isolating patients needed to win war against Covid-19

Published April 15, 2020
The recommendations shared at the event included tracking of corona-positive patients with the help of mobile phone services and enforcement of lockdown only at targeted areas based on the results of positive cases. — AP/File
The recommendations shared at the event included tracking of corona-positive patients with the help of mobile phone services and enforcement of lockdown only at targeted areas based on the results of positive cases. — AP/File

KARACHI: The war against Covid-19 could only be won by increasing testing capacity, isolating infected individuals, equipping the healthcare staff with proper protective gear and last but not the least ensuring that the poor are provided ration at their doorstep. If utility bills could reach every home, why can’t ration?

These points were raised by members of the medical and legal fraternity at a press conference organised here on Tuesday.

They shared their concerns over the existing coronavirus situation and the problems being faced by the healthcare staff.

Representatives of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (Pima), Young Doctors Association-Sindh, Young Nursing Federation, the Midwifery Association, the Sindh High Court Bar Association, the Karachi Bar Association and the College of Family Medicine Pakistan were present at the briefing.

“We all stakeholders strongly suggest that at this particular time the government at the federal and provincial level must focus on increasing testing capacity for coronavirus and providing quality personal protective gear to the healthcare staff,” said PMA’s Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro.

Frequent washing of hands with soap is also vital for healthcare staff

The country, he said, had limited resources as it faced multiple health challenges in its fight against Covid-19.

“We understand that ventilators are important for critical Covid-19 patients. But, at this particular coronavirus phase, the focus should be on prevention. We must break the chain of virus transmission and that could only be done by maximising testing capacity that would help minimise spread of the infection,” he explained.

The Sindh government must bring screening and testing facilities for Covid-19 to the district level as soon as possible and ensure compliance with standard operating procedures on coronavirus screening at all points of entry, he added.

Shortage of PPE needs to be addressed

According to Dr Shoro, the other area which should be looked into on a priority basis is the shortage of PPE.

“It’s a matter of great concern that a significant number of healthcare staff handling patients has been infected with coronavirus. If this issue is not taken up immediately, the healthcare staff will lose confidence in the system and the country will start losing its front-line force,” he observed.

Dr Shoro also spoke about a PMA initiative under which the association had started distribution of locally made PPE among healthcare staff in the country.

“Family physicians and registered general practitioners should continue their services, wearing proper PPE and following SOPs,” he said.

Calling upon healthcare staff to understand the true concept of PPE, Dr Atif Hafeez of Pima said frequent washing of hands with soap was important for everyone including the healthcare staff.

“It’s crucial in these conditions that the healthcare staff strictly follow the guidelines recommended for their specialised area, learn about infection control practices and treat every patient as a Covid-19 patient,” he said, adding the association had developed guidelines for general practitioners.

People, he noted, could help flatten the curve by ensuring social distancing and maintaining hygiene.

Dr Hafeez also mentioned about the misuse of N95 masks and emphasized that they were meant for healthcare staff directly exposed to high-risk patients.

Representatives of the legal fraternity in attendance assured the medical fraternity of their support.

The recommendations shared at the event included tracking of corona-positive patients with the help of mobile phone services and enforcement of lockdown only at targeted areas based on the results of positive cases.

The government should promote home isolation, if it could ensure proper patient monitoring with the support of local registered general practitioners and community clinics, they said.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2020

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