As the world begins to recover from the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan unfortunately still continues to learn how to manage and curb the spread. Fingers point towards various culprits – some ill-informed point towards healthcare workers and hospitals; others point to the government, policies, corruption, poverty, and the general populace that refuses to acknowledge or follow any of the preventative measures.
Where does the problem really lie?
During a recent interview, Chairperson and CEO of South City Hospital, Dr. Saadia Virk opened up about counterproductive measures and agendas we as a country are choosing to focus on. She spoke about how one of the major issues during the crisis is healthcare turning into a scapegoat for political and personal agendas.
“Right now is the time to take stock of the facilities we have. If we just make proper use of the existing healthcare budget we will sail through,” opines the doctor. Advising the concerned to refocus on making the best of limited resources by improving and upgrading facilities, Dr. Virk presents the example of her own hospital.
South City Hospital has taken drastic measures to ensure the safety of all concerned stakeholders including patients, healthcare workers and support staff. The doctor further extends the opportunity to replicate the model her team has successfully executed in one of the country’s leading hospitals.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Virk has successfully led South City Hospital’s transformation into being equipped to handle more than 100 patients in isolation at any given time. Very few hospitals in Pakistan can boast the same.
“We started with 23, today we are 101 beds for COVID-19 patients. I don’t have any donations. I don’t have any tax relief. We bought this hospital on a commercial basis because we paid the market price upfront. We are not a charitable organization,” explains the doctor.
Drastic measures including the installation of negative pressure systems and the complete geographic demarcation of South City Hospital’s COVID-19 unit in less than three months, was one of the biggest challenges in transforming the hospital. Apart from these measures, Dr. Virk also spoke about the need to regularly screening individuals at the hospital, including patients, healthcare workers, and support staff.
Keeping a check on the patient as well as the healthcare and support staff’s right to safe service, she explains, “how unfair would it be for a COVID-19 positive consultant to (infect) the innocent people who want help for other ailments?”
Another issue that Dr. Virk addresses is the misuse of social media in present times. Instead of focusing on accusing, bullying, and harassing those who are working around the clock, the country needs to come up with solutions to the problems we face as a nation.
As the doctor aptly explains, “the sons of the soil have to write down our needs, our problems and solutions to those problems. We don’t have to depend on the west.” Even today social media amplifies the uninformed opinions of many and adds to the physical and mental torture of doctors and health institutes who continue to suffer in silence. The country ignores the harsh reality that our brave heroes face alone.
“There have been days where I’ve been working with my team and I used to think that if I get COVID -19 today, there won’t be a bed available for me,” explains Dr. Virk who is a cancer survivor.
One can only pray and hope our country learns to think beyond itself. Channeling compassion, kindness and empathy are the only way we as a nation can come out of COVID-19 as winners.