Pakistan’s prime minister warns country will need more doctors on the front-line if cases of coronavirus continue to rise
Criticizing the low doctor-to-patient ratio in Pakistan on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country’s new TeleHealth portal would help reduce the burden on healthcare workers by offering free medical consultations without any physical examination.
Launching the new initiative at a ceremony in Islamabad, the prime minister warned that if the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus continued in the coming days, the country would soon run out of healthcare workers to treat the patients.
Praising the digital measure, Khan said the healthcare sector of Pakistan was currently undergoing great challenges. “Until a vaccine is available, we will have to put up with this virus,” he reiterated, in seemingly validation of the country adopting a ‘herd immunity’ approach as it continues to remove restrictions imposed to curb the virus’ spread.
During his address, the prime minister said over a million people had registered for the Corona Relief Tiger Force, adding this included several thousand healthcare workers as well. “Even after the coronavirus pandemic passes, we will need this force to go to far-flung areas in Pakistan,” he said, urging more doctors to join the volunteer organization.
Khan said that government could utilize technological solutions such as the TeleHealth portal to disseminate information to far-flung areas and resolve their issues.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus informed the prime minister that the said TeleHealth portal was available to people across Pakistan. “I am proud to announce that Pakistan is the first nation that is providing such a service for free,” she said, as she also urged doctors to volunteer for the service so they could help people.
“There are less than 150,000 doctors for our 210 million population,” she said, saying it wasn’t possible for doctors to personally cater to the entire population.
Similarly, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza said the coronavirus has opened new venues for healthcare, and TeleHealth is one of them. “The use of this [TeleHealth] service during the pandemic has increased. Pakistanis who think they have symptoms of coronavirus can now just pick up their phone and connect with doctors,” he said.
“I urge all the female doctors who were unable to continue their practice to avail this service and help the people,” he said. “Telehealth is here to stay and it will be able to help people even in far-flung areas,” he added.
To avail the service, you can message a chatbot at +923001111166, which is available in seven local languages. Once you answer a few standardized questions, you can opt to speak directly with a doctor either via Whatsapp or voice call.