ISLAMABAD: With Covid-19 cases rising sharply in the capital, healthcare providers have urged the separation of hospitals into Covid-19 treatment facilities and non-Covid-19 facilities.
National Institute of Health (NIH) Executive Director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram told Dawn that though it is difficult even for developed countries to set up dedicated hospitals for specific diseases, Covid-19 has created an opportunity to do so.
“We have been setting up a 250-bed hospital in Chak Shahzad which will be for patients of Covid-19. The completion of the hospital has been slightly delayed by rainfall, but I hope it will be completed in a fortnight,” he said, adding: “After that, it will be used to treat patients of Covid-19 and later such hospitals will be replicated across the country.”
Dedicated hospitals are the need of the hour, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) General Secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad said.
“The same blunder was made in Italy, where patients with Covid-19 and other [illnesses] were kept in the same intensive care units,” he said.
Dr Sajjad said it was unfortunate that a number of hospitals are treating Covid-19 patients at the same time, as this makes it difficult to obtain beds and ventilators.
Hospital in Chak Shahzad may be completed in fortnight, NIH head says; Pims spokesperson says a single hospital should not treat Covid-19, non-Covid-19 cases at the same time
“On Jan 22, the PMA wrote a letter to the health authorities that they should establish dedicated hospitals for Covid-19,” he said, adding: “In that cases, even an ambulance driver will know where to shift a patient. As long as we do not have dedicated hospitals we should establish an integrated system so patients do not die due to a lack of beds.”
The spokesperson for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), Dr Waseem Khawaja, similarly emphasised the need to separate hospitals into two separate categories: ones that treat only Covid-19 patients and others that treat everyone else.
He said a single hospital should not treat both Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 cases at the same time.
“If all Covid-19 cases have to be treated at Pims, all other health services should be suspended for the time being to prevent the virus from spreading to other patients and to healthcare staff who are not treating virus-affected people,” he said.
He added that the Federal General Services and Capital Development Authority hospitals could treat illnesses other than Covid-19.
Dr Khawaja added that it is time to protect all healthcare staff, among whom the coronavirus spreading gradually. He said medical professionals should be protected so they can treat others.
He said most of the Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals in Islamabad are not residents of the city. Such patients should be sent back to their hometowns or residential districts, where they can be isolated and treated.
He said it would be a greater burden on Pims if patients who are not Islamabad residents and non-Covid-19 cases are being treated there. He said Covid-19 patients should be divided according to their residential addresses.
Dr Khawaja said there are 53 Covid-19 patients admitted to four separate hospitals in the capital, of which 21 are residents and the rest are from other parts of the country. Of the nine critical patients, five are from Islamabad and four from elsewhere; six of the patients on ventilators are from other parts of the country and four are from Islamabad. He said the Islamabad Young Doctors Association had also expressed concerns regarding the increase in Covid-19 cases in the capital, as well as the situation in which they are treating patients with the available protective equipment.
He quoted the association as demanding a set criteria for which hospitals will treat which patients, and that the federal hospital should facilitate Islamabad residents and not patients from all over the country.
He said the association had also demanded that the hospital plan to gradually screen doctors and healthcare professionals and ensure they are all provided personal protective equipment (PPE), as the equipment currently given to healthcare staff is of low quality and is not distributed well.
One floor in the private wards should be designated for doctors to function as an isolation ward if they contract Covid-19, he said, and house officers who have applied for honorary house jobs should be appointed to strengthen the workforce and reduce the workload.
He said they have also demanded that the ministry sanction medical officers’ posts and give house officers and postgraduate residents a risk allowance.
Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2020