These views were shared by the Secretary-General, PMA Centre, Dr S M Qaisar Sajjad, in a press conference held at the PMA House. Treasurer, PMA Centre, Dr Qazi M Wasiq, President, PMA Sindh, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, and General-Secretary, PMA Karachi, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, were also present on occasion.
Dr Qaisar Sajjad said that the PMA being a big stakeholder is always vocal on health-related issues and has always given recommendations to present and previous governments to improve health delivery systems and medical education. In Pakistan, we have a lot of problems in the health sector, but today we will highlight the current most important issue that is the second wave of COVID-19 and, more than that, the third variety of COVID-19, which was initially detected in South Africa and has reached fifteen counties of the world.
He said that the PMA is very concerned over the rapid increase of COVID-19 patients throughout the country during this second wave of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the public never followed the SOPs, and the Government has also failed at ensuring the implementation of SOPs. The PMA has been continuously issuing health alerts and suggestions for the Government and preventive measures for the public since 22 January 2020. At that time, the number of deaths in China was just six, and positive corona patients were 3000; the pandemic was then in its initial stages.
"Unfortunately, nobody acted upon our advice. Now, the virus has become lethal, and the third variety of COVID-19 is also proving very dangerous. The third variety is spreading rapidly from South Africa to the UK and has reached almost 15 countries of the world. It is more dangerous because it is also affecting the age group of below fifteen,” he added.
Dr Qaisar Sajjad informed that the total number of infected cases had reached 140,316 in the second wave during the last seven weeks, and the number of deaths has reached 2,863. The overall integrated tally of positive cases of both waves has reached 473,309, and the number of deaths has reached 9929. The mortality rate and the number of cases are increasing day by day.
President, PMA Sindh, Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, said that this wave is proving to be more lethal and deadlier as the virus has mutated itself and has become more transmissible and more infectious. It has been observed that people are not fully recovering even after being declared negative.
He feared this wave is expected to last longer as low temperature favors transmission. It is expected that a large number of people might be infected during the winter because people prefer to stay together in one room. They close windows due to which they lack ventilation and chances of infection increases, and those who are already suffering from nose, throat, bronchus, lung diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and cancer are more at risk.
The increasing burden of disease of the second wave in the community is proving to be more dangerous for doctors. Till now, 154 doctors have lost their lives due to COVID –19 in Pakistan. During this second wave, which started in November, 45 doctors have lost their lives (Punjab-16, Sindh-14, KPK-13, AJK-02). The situation is very alarming.
Unfortunately, doctors are not getting proper protection. Doctors are also not taking care of themselves and neglecting their own protection. They are facing a shortage of PPEs. It is very unfortunate that the announcement of the Shuhda Package at the request of the PMA by the Government for the families of shaheed doctors has not been implemented yet, and the aggrieved families are going through a hard time with economic problems. The PMA demanded the Government to protect doctors and implement the Shuhda package immediately.
Treasurer, PMA Centre, Dr Qazi M Wasiq, said that the PMA has observed that the public is not following SOPs, so we request the Government to implement SOPs strictly. We believe that the Federal Government should make a uniform policy with the consultation of all political parties and other stakeholders and make legislation for the implementation of SOPs. In this crisis, the Government and Opposition Parties should leave their political interests and prefer the safety of the public from the coronavirus. The Government should fine heavily or punish the people not following SOPs to keep deterrence as it happens in other countries of the world.
In regards to the Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), General Secretary, PMA Karachi, Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro, said that the PMA has been demanding for the last many years to strengthen the PMDC as a democratic, autonomous, independent and transparent body to regulate medical education in the country but unfortunately in contrast to our demand, the Government passed the PMC and Medical Tribunal Act, in haste, through a joint session of the parliament on 16 September 2020. Even before passing these acts, the PMA had suggested the Government to take all stakeholders on board and, after proper discussion and consent of all the legislation, should have taken place.
He said now the PMC seems to be a mess under bad governance. Instead of improving, the situation is continuously deteriorating, and doctors and medical students are facing huge problems. Both the medical education and health delivery system is worsening.
After wasting six months of students, the PMC conducted the MDCAT Exam on 29 November 2020, in a very unorganized manner. It was full of flaws. In many cases, names against roll numbers were written wrongly, and many students who appeared in the exam were marked absent. Students and parents are protesting against the exam.
The syllabus of the test was changed, and instead of the previous syllabus, the test was taken from the federal syllabus, which created difficulties for students of all provinces. Due to the faults, the MDCAT result was once removed from the website. It was uploaded again, but unfortunately, instead of improvement, it had reported even more mistakes. This all shows immaturity and inexperience at the PMC.
It is very disappointing that provincial governments are showing their reservations over the results of the MDCAT Test. Due to this mess at the PMC, the Sindh Government has planned to form its own Sindh Medical Commission. Punjab will also form the Punjab Medical Commission. If this happens, it will be a big disaster for medical education in the country.
Dr Shoro said the PMA believes that there should be one regulatory body in the country to regulate medical education, and that should be the PMDC. If there are some faults with the PMDC that should be removed. He demanded the Government to consult provincial governments and all other stakeholders to restore the PMDC. If the Government's attitude does not change, then it will be a disaster, and provinces will have their own bodies.