A mob of around 70 people attacked doctors and staff at the emergency ward in Civil Hospital, Karachi on Friday night. The attack was carried out after one of the attacker’s relative died of COVID-19 and the hospital refused to hand over the body without proper protocols.
This was the third incident of its kind at the hospital and long in a line of increasing incidents of violence against medical workers during the epidemic in Pakistan.
Relatives of the deceased COVID-19 patient, who had been brought to the hospital in a deteriorating state, turned violent after the patient passed away. They stormed the ER and took the body from the hospital without following any of the SOPs for COVID-19 deaths, confirmed CHK Medical Superintendent Dr Khadim Qureshi.
An FIR was lodged on Saturday.
Following the incident, young doctors at the hospital protested for their security on Saturday. They closed down OPDs and demanded the Sindh government provide them proper protection.
Head of Healthcare in Danger Initiative at the International Committee of the Red Cross Dr Mirwais Khan said COVID-19 has already overburdened a thinly stretched healthcare system. “It’s about time we realise health workers are people and they don’t need to accept this violence as part of their duty. It is also important to treat COVID-19 patients and their families with kindness. The stigma attached to COVID-19 diagnosis needs to be erased so families can bring in patients before the end stages of the disease.”
Earlier in the month, Karachi’s Jinnah hospital had also witnessed two such incidents after COVID-19 patients passed away. Doctors at Patel Hospital say they’ve been witnessing such violence from attendants regularly ever since the pandemic began.
The Sindh government had then changed the SOPs for the burial of COVID-19 patients. The new guidelines allowed the deceased’s family to take the body after washing and shrouding had been carried out by trained health personnel.
A 2019 study by the ICRC across 16 cities in three provinces of Pakistan found that 49.2% of the total healthcare workers surveyed had either experienced and/or witnessed some kind of violence and more than one-third (38.5%) reported having experienced some form of violence in the last six months.