–Urges govt to ensure PPE for health staffers, document violent incidents
ISLAMABAD: The Amnesty International Wednesday expressed concern over the increasing number of health workers in Pakistan affected by the coronavirus.
In an open letter to Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza, Head of Amnesty International’s South Asia Office Omar Waraich wrote, “As of 29 June 2020, official figures record at least 5,367 health workers across Pakistan being infected with Covid-19, with 58 dead as a result. This is a devastating tally.”
Waraich said that doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers and other medical staff continue to help people in the face of such imminent danger to their lives underscores their courage. “It also highlights how much they deserve not only our gratitude but also the state’s protection,” he added.
The human rights watchdog reminded the SAPM that health workers are particularly vulnerable to the virus as they are consistently and repeatedly exposed to it.
The human rights watchdog also raised concerns regarding “several instances of violence against health workers across Pakistan since April”.
“Hospitals have been vandalized, many doctors have been attacked, and one was even shot by a member of the Counter Terrorism Force,” said Amnesty.
In the letter, it also added the Young Doctors Association comment claiming that health workers are being attacked on a daily basis and that the exact number of such incidents were “beyond count.”
Waraich added that ministers have issued several statements claiming that hospitals have the necessary resources, despite reports that hospitals have been forced to turn away even critical patients, given the shortage of beds, ventilators and other life-saving equipment.
“This puts health workers in danger as people do not believe them when they say they do not have room for more patients,” said the human rights watchdog. It also acknowledged that even the best and most well-resourced healthcare systems are struggling with the pandemic but insisted that it was “critical” that the government takes all reasonable measures to protect health workers.
The watchdog also urged the government to “promptly investigate” any attacks or acts of violence against health workers in a thorough, independent and impartial manner, and stated that perpetrators must be brought to account.
The Amnesty International urged Mirza to ensure that employers – whether public or private – are provided with adequate PPE to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with international standards. It urged to immediately put in place protocols to ensure that managers of all facilities where health workers work conduct an analysis of what risks their staff face regarding violence and put in place adequate security measures to address these threats.
The letter urged the government to set up systems to document any violent incidents, discrimination and/or stigmatization faced by health workers during the Covid-19 pandemic and encourage workers to report such incidents promptly.