COVID-19: Doctor in rural Pakistan improvises ‘virus-free’ clinic to resume practice

Islamabad: A Pakistani doctor hailing from a remote city of Punjab has set an example for other doctors of his locality by improvising his private clinic into a virus-free facility and by following the accepted standards and protocol for examining patients.

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Dr. Zafar Ehsan a pediatrician and a skin specialist in Punjab’s southern district Layyah has bifurcated his clinic into two halves with a glass wall rising from the floor to the ceiling.

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This is not an unusual thing in big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. However, for people of far flung areas, this is something they are not used to.

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Sitting in one half of the room the doctor examines/interviews the patient who sits in the other half. There is no hole in the glass screen that could allow the patient’s breath to travel from one part to the other.

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Cellular communication

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The doctor and the patient communicate to each other through a cell phone and an attendant helps facilitate the uninterrupted communication between the two.

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While talking to Gulf News, Dr. Ehsan, 48, said he had taken the measures keeping in mind doctors and paramedics were among the most adversely-affected segments of society falling prey to coronavirus in large numbers.

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During the first four months since the outbreak of coronavirus, they kept the clinic closed (his wife is also a doctor) and severed all the external links confining themselves to the four walls of the house that is adjacent to the facility.

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“Initially, we had made up the mind that we would not resume practice unless the virus threat is completely over. However, as the days passed by there was no sign of life returning to normalization and it became gradually clear to us that one has to learn to live with coronavirus, said Dr. Ehsan.

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Now with the coronavirus situation a little bit improving and they too, fed up with long hours of respite at home, have decided to resume practice.

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Patients provided masks

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“We have finally decided to resume practice but we have tried our best not to be in direct contact with the patients,” he said. Now Dr. Ehsan and his wife Dr. Nusrat examine patients from across the glass screen and all the questions answers are done through cell phones.

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“We make sure all patients wear masks before entering the clinic. They are also properly sanitized so that other patients at the clinic could not contract the virus”, he said.

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When asked if he faced any resistance or criticism while following international practice and the protocol for examining patients in a relatively less developed city of the province, hesaid he didn’t care what others said.

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“In the beginning, a few patients objected to being examined across the glass screen but when we made them realize how serious the treat of coronavirus could be they understood and stopped criticizing”, he said.

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45 doctors died in Punjab

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“My colleagues however fully support me and appreciate these arrangements as in the recent past, we have seen our very close friends, junior and senior doctors losing their lives to coronavirus,” he continued. He is right in saying so as so far, 45 doctors and 5 nurses have died in Punjab while treating coronavirus patients.

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Besides, according to Coordinator of the Young Doctors Association (YDA) Dr Imran Bhatti in Punjab, more than 200 doctors, nurses and paramedics have been infected with the coronavirus during the five-month battle.

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Pakistan today reported 15 deaths and 675 new cases of coronavirus in a period of 24 hours registering a steady and marked progress against the virus.

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These promising results came after 11,915 tests conducted countrywide for coronavirus in a day. With these latest figures, Pakistan’s total number of deaths stand at 6,014 while its tally of cases is at 281,136.

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