Wednesday Aug 18, 2021
KARACHI: The frontline healthcare professionals in the war against COVID-19 are in a state of shock as the government had ignored them while conferring civil awards despite their services during the deadly pandemic, The News reported.
Hundreds of doctors, paramedics, nurses and pharmacists sacrificed their lives for others during the COVID-19 pandemic but the names of just only two healthcare professionals were included for the investiture of the ‘civil awards’.
President Dr Arif Alvi announced the Pakistan Civil Awards for 126 people, including foreign nationals, in recognition of their services in different fields of life on August 14, 2021 but ironically, there were only two medical professionals in the list, whose names were forwarded from Sindh.
Pakistan has so far lost 168 healthcare professionals due to COVID-19, including 102 doctors, one medical student, 61 paramedics and four nurses, National Health Services officials said while Pakistan Medical Association believes that the number of fallen healthcare professionals is over 250 in the country.
Dr Shehla Baqi from the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Karachi, and Dr Muhammad Haroon Memon from Badin were the only ‘fortunate’ healthcare professionals from Sindh, whose names were among the Pakistan civil award recipients.
One of the leading healthcare professionals, Dr Saad Khalid Niaz, who was dismayed at ignoring healthcare professionals in awarding Pakistan civil awards, said over 200 healthcare professionals including doctors, paramedics and nurses have died while serving patients but nobody cared to honour their services for the country and the suffering humanity.
Dr Saad, who is already a recipient of Sitara-e-Imtiaz for recognition of his services in medicine, said he was considering to return the civil award back to the President of Pakistan for ignoring the healthcare professionals, who served day and night during the pandemic and saved thousands of lives by risking their lives and that of their families.
“There are scores of deserving doctors, paramedics and nurses who are working tirelessly during the ongoing pandemic, many of them died and now nobody remembers them except their families. And here is our state, which is more concerned to honour people from all walks of life except from medicine and healthcare. This is shameful,” he said.
Another healthcare professional and renowned psychiatrist Prof Iqbal Afridi said the pandemic provided an opportunity to recognize the hard work and dedication of healthcare workers, whose services to the ailing people required practical steps by the government to improve their working conditions, promotion structure, and retirement plan.
“Last year, the healthcare professionals were ‘saluted’ but this year, the majority of them were ignored while announcing the civil awards. Lack of recognition, financial compensation and accolades has already resulted in most doctors migrating abroad,” he said and called for their due recognition and declaring them ‘national heroes’ along with sportsmen, and artists.
Eminent transplant surgeon Prof Saeed Akhtar, renowned haematologist and BMT surgeon and known pulmonologist Prof Sohail Akhtar also criticized the authorities for ignoring the healthcare professionals while announcing the Pakistan Civil Awards, saying the discrimination and ignorance would have serious repercussions for the already fragile healthcare system of Pakistan.
When asked why most of the healthcare professionals were ignored while announcing the civil awards, Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar told The News that the health ministry makes recommendations for the national awards for healthcare professionals. “They (National Health Services officials) would be able to answer that. The main committee did not turn down any recommendations,” he added.