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Saturday Mar 21 2020
Web Desk

Health experts question wisdom of setting up field hospital at Karachi's Expo Centre

Web Desk
Photo: File

Terming the establishment of a large field hospital at the Expo Centre Karachi a “big blunder”, leading health experts of the country on Friday demanded of the government to utilise large apartment buildings away from the city as isolation and treatment centres for people infected with coronavirus to prevent the healthy population from contracting the disease.

“The provincial government is committing a big blunder by establishing a field hospital at the Expo Centre Karachi for people infected with coronavirus. Ideally, such isolation and treatment centres are established away from the city to prevent the healthy population from getting infected,” said Dr Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) while talking to The News.

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Several other health experts, including public health experts, pathologists and infectious diseases experts, expressed their “shock and surprise” over the establishment of a field hospital for a highly contagious disease in the heart of the city, saying those who advised the government to set up an isolation centre at the Expo Centre were committing a “serious blunder”.

Dr Qaiser Sajjad said that since the outbreak had been reported in China, he had advised the government to establish quarantine facilities at the entry points of the province and the cities, but no heed was paid to the suggestion that isolation centres should be built away from the cities.

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The government could still rethink its decision and relocate the isolation centre from the Expo Centre to some secure location along the Karachi-Hyderabad Motorway, or in Hub or Malir areas.

“There are dozens of apartment buildings, which are complete for living at a massive residential estate of Bahria Town on the Motorway, which is away from the city and can be used for setting up an isolation centre for thousands of people. At the same time, there are dozens of residential apartment complexes in Malir and other locations, far away from the population, which can easily be converted into isolation centres with the help of the army,” he added.

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Another leading health expert, Prof Dr Tahir Shamsi, also opposed the establishment of a field hospital in the heart of the city at the Expo Centre and said the government should review the decision and establish the isolation centre for the confirmed patients of COVID-19 at some far away location on the outskirts of the city.

“Firstly, it would be a nuisance for the many agencies and organisations as this would create traffic issues, and secondly it would endanger people living around the Expo Centre. Such hospitals should be established outside the city due to the sensitivity of the disease as it is a highly infectious and contagious ailment,” Dr Shamsi added.

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He said the government should explore the possibility of using an old technique, which is called ‘passive immunisation” in which plasma of the infected people is collected and transfused to people who are infected with the virus to create immunity among their bodies against the viral disease.

“The Chinese conducted experiments on a number of techniques and two of them worked really well for them. One was the use of anti-malarial drug Chloroquine and the other was using the technique of passive immunisation,” Dr Shamsi said and told the Sindh government that his team of experts at the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) could help the authorities in collecting plasma from the bodies of infected people and prepare it for those who were newly infected patients.

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Another leading pathologist, Dr Zeeshan Ansari, strongly opposed the establishment of the isolation centre for COVID-19 patients at the Expo Centre, saying it would be a grave mistake as it would endanger the lives of millions of people living in the areas of Gulshan-e-Iqbal and the surrounding localities.

“Nowhere in the world are such isolation centres for highly contagious diseases established within the centre of the city. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease and isolation centres for such diseases are established far away from the residential areas,” Dr Zeeshan Ansari said and advised the government to utilise dozens of abandoned but complete residential facilities on the city’s outskirts to keep such patients.

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“Such isolation centres can be established at each district of the city where abandoned residential complexes and hospital buildings are available,” Dr Ansari said.

He further advised the government to establish mobile testing labs and send them to different areas of the city to take samples of suspected patients, saying that at the moment, three to four labs that were offering the COVID-19 test were overburdened and refusing highly suspected patients, who were spreading the viral illness to others.

Originally published in The News