A TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN initiative undertaken by the Sindh government since two years is bearing fruit in unexpected ways during the pandemic. The eDoctor project, launched in 2018, is aimed at 35,000 women doctors who had quit the field after graduating from various public and private medical colleges in the country. Some 800 ‘inactive’ female doctors all over Pakistan as well as in places like the US, UAE and Greece have thus far been enabled to resume their profession. After undergoing training in updated medical practices and virtual digital technology, they have been conducting live video-based patient consultations and clinical rotations with medical consultants in Pakistani hospitals. In the latest development, around 400 of them have been recruited for round-the-clock virtual monitoring through IT-enabled technology of 8,000 Covid-19 patients who are in home isolation in Sindh. These long-distance doctors are proving to be a valuable resource for the government to advise self-isolated patients who may have only mild symptoms, or even no symptoms at all, on day-to-day management of their illness. Information about their recovery process is also shared with relevant district and local health administrations, which helps them maintain a more accurate and up-to-date record.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, it is always more prudent to extract the most out of existing capacities and the Sindh government should be lauded on this score. The project, spearheaded by the Dow University of Health Sciences, is one way to respond to the sadly low retention rate of female medical graduates in their field. Women comprise about 70pc of students in medical school; but less than 50pc end up practising, which amounts to an enormous waste of state funds that go towards subsidising government medical colleges. Simultaneously, there must also be efforts to change the narrative on the sociocultural issues that lead to this outcome. The medical profession is too important to be sacrificed to family pressure, often because prospective in-laws want a ‘doctor bride’ but can’t brook her practising post marriage.
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020