Health minister paints gloomier picture of Covid-19 situation in Sindh

Updated Jun 05 2020

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Dr Azra Pechuho warns hospitals will face shortage of beds and ventilators. — Dawn/File
Dr Azra Pechuho warns hospitals will face shortage of beds and ventilators. — Dawn/File

KARACHI: Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho informed the Sindh Assembly on Thursday that the coronavirus situation in the province was getting worse to the extent that now, Covid-19 cases would pop up from every household.

“This happened only due to one person who had declared that ‘corona se darna nahi larna hai’ (Don’t be afraid of the coronavirus, fight it),” she said in a reference to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s initial response to the pandemic.

The health minister told the lawmakers during the assembly session, summoned on the opposition’s requisition on the Covid-19 issue, that they would face a shortage of beds and ventilators and the situation could become worse where patients would not be able to acquire a bed in hospitals as had happened in several European countries.

At the outset of the proceedings, the health minister and MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of the Grand Democratic Alliance exchanged hot words when the latter protested over the minister delivering a policy statement in English. The GDA member wanted the minister to give her statement either in Sindhi or Urdu “so the people of Sindh could understand” what she was saying.

Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani intervened to tell the two lawmakers that the harsh words used in the house had been expunged. “It seems you have decided not to let the proceedings continue,” he cautioned the opposition member.

We have strengthened our laboratories by bringing in more PCR machines, she tells PA

The speaker had given the floor to the health minister to make a policy statement after the house carried a motion moved by Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla for holding discussion on the deadly virus.

Federal govt criticised

Dr Pechuho came down hard on the federal government saying that the country neither had a leadership nor a policy to deal with the pandemic.

She said that the provincial government called for a strict lockdown from day one to deal with the virus. “Here the prime minister sits with 50 people in a meeting without a mask. What message is he trying to convey?” she said while pointing out that a report had said there were 700,000 coronavirus patients in Lahore alone. The health minister asked how they could fight without weapons in their hands. “These people want death toll to be in millions,” she said and asked that what good would be the economy when people die of the virus.

“We have tracked and tested passengers coming from abroad in Sindh from December and isolated them to prevent the rising Covid-19 tally,” she said and added that the province had also initiated a project to train doctors and paramedics to deal with the virus.

“We have strengthened our laboratories by bringing in more PCR machines,” she said adding that currently 19 laboratories were involved in the Covid-19 testing process in the province.

The MQM-P’s Rashid Khilji and Mangla Sharma; PTI’s Haleem Adil Sheikh, Dr Seema Zia; GDA’s Shaheryar Khan Mahar, Abdul Razzaque Rahimoon; and PPP’s Sharjeel Inam Memon, Heer Soho, Syeda Shehla Raza, Ghulam Qadir Chandio, Ghanwer Ali Khan Isran, Shamim Mumtaz, Syed Zulfikar Shah, Shabbir Bijarani and Abdul Bari Pitafi also spoke.

Call to reopen schools

PTI’s Rabia Azfar Nizami said that educational institutions could not be closed indefinitely and called for forming a policy to reopen schools and other educational institutions with standard operating procedures.

She said that 30 per cent of school-going children were registered in private schools whereas 60pc go to government schools, fearing that the gap between the poor and the rich would further increase as everyone could not afford online classes.

“Child marriages, child abuse and child labour will be on the rise if educational institutions are not opened,” she said.

The GDA’s Nusrat Abbasi in her speech said that the PPP had given nothing to the people of Sindh during its rule. “If the medical facilities in Sindh are good, why the former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP MNAs and MPAs are getting treatment at private hospitals?” she said.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Khwaja Izharul Hassan said that Pakistan could not be compared with Europe as “we have different dynamics”.

He said that initially the Sindh government had taken ‘impressive’ decisions but later failed to cope with the issue. “The provincial government claimed to having provided rations worth 1.25 billion to the people but the amount was deducted from salaries of government employees and funds for local bodies,” he added.

Younus Soomro of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan said that the provincial government claimed supply of rations to two million families but it was not visible on the ground.

Dr Imran Ali Shah of the PTI said that mobile testing units should be established and a hospital be designated for Covid-19 patients in each district. He said tests were conducted during specific times (8am to 8pm), demanding that tests should be conducted 24 hours.

Dr Shah said that 250 doctors at Dr Ruth K.M. Pfau Civil Hospital Karachi, who performed their duties in different shifts, had no separate accommodation and go back to their homes after treating the Covid-19 patients.

He asked the provincial government to arrange accommodation for the doctors near the Civil Hospital so that their families were not unnecessarily exposed to the virus.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020