KARACHI: Representatives of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) and Ophthalmological Society of Pakistan (OSP) on Friday condemned the incidents of violence against doctors in Sindh and demanded that the government take immediate action against culprits and provide protection to healthcare providers.

Speaking at a press conference held at the PMA House, they regretted that doctors were being harassed and tortured at a time when the country had already lost 190 medics, including specialists, to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is extremely unfortunate. People are attacking and harassing doctors, who are serving them at the cost of their lives. These front-line workers are being praised and respected around the globe but the way they are being treated in their own country is condemnable,” said Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro of the PMA-Karachi.

He warned that if this hostility against healthcare providers continued, many of those still working would be forced to leave the country, aggravating the public health crisis.

Recalling a recent case reported at one of the major tertiary care private hospitals in the city, Dr Qazi Wasiq of the OSP-Karachi said a lady doctor and a senior consultant ophthalmologist were verbally abused and attacked by a patient’s family member, causing them injuries.

“It’s the state’s responsibility to provide security to doctors while the Sindh Health Care Commission (SHCC) should monitor such situations and play its due role prescribed in its charter,” he added.

The incidents of violence, according to doctors, have also been reported from Johi town in Dadu district, and Daharki in Ghotki district in recent days.

Silence of SHCC questioned

“In both the cases, furious family members of patients tortured doctors, causing them serious injuries. They also broke furniture and costly medical equipment of their clinics,” Dr Shoro said, questioning the silence of the government and the SHCC.

He said the eye specialist attacked at a private hospital was one of the few retina specialists left in the country and it would be a great loss if he decided to leave Pakistan.

Asked about the SHCC’s role in taking up these cases, he said one of the main reasons for setting up the commission was to prevent violence against doctors and medical negligence.

“These cases have been widely reported in the media but the commission hasn’t taken any action yet. It is supposed to take up such cases, investigate them, fix responsibility and play its role in awarding punishment.”

The speakers demanded that the prime minister, the chief justice of Pakistan, the chief of the army staff and Sindh chief minister initiate an impartial judicial inquiry into these cases and bring the culprits to book as per the law.

They also criticised administrations of private hospitals and said if they failed in providing protection to their staff, how one could expect doctors to work in a peaceful environment in remote areas.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2021

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