As the Covid-19 pandemic continue to spread in Afghanistan, a large number of people complain about poor health care performances in hospitals. The Covid-19 pandemic has left a noticeable negative effect on daily lives of every citizen in the country. Some health workers, who were working on the front line, have left their jobs to protest against what they call late payment, lack of medical equipment and health insurance.      

The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) denies accusations made by public, saying that access to health care has become a little bit difficult as the country’s health sector is struggling with the coronavirus outbreak.    

The 24-year-old Zohra says that every year she gets allergy as the season changes and during the hot season her allergies become acute.     

 This year, when she gets allergy, the doctors didn’t prescribe her medicine and told her that she has fallen ill with the Covid-19. “My allergy is getting serious. Without medicine, I cannot recover, but this year due to outbreak of coronavirus, the doctors don’t prescribe me medicines,” says Zohra.

Fatima is facing a similar problem. A few days ago, on Tuesday, June 02, she went to a private hospital and visited a physician who diagnosed her to have typhoid fever. “I have been feeling weak in the last month and every time that I visited a doctor, I was told to have caught the coronavirus. I came here and the doctor told me that I had to be treated earlier because now the typhoid has progressed.”

According to MPs, citizens in all the provinces complain about lack of health services. MP Yarbaz Khan Hamidi, who represents the eastern Paktia province, says that the people’s accessibility to health services is very limited. “The health services is limited even for corona patients,” he noted.

Rohullah Khanzada, another MP from the southern Kandahar province, says that other disease have also increased since the outbreak of coronavirus but the patients other than those fallen ill with covid-19 are not checked properly. “The accurate number of corona patients is not clear in Afghanistan. However, due to lack of health officials in hospitals, nurses with little knowledge prescribe only Paracetamol tablets to patients,” he claimed.

MoPH denies inadequacy of health care services

According to the MoPH, health care services are being delivered as usual. “The number of patients have decreased for strict control and restrictions imposed on public communication,” said Wahidullah Mayar, former spokesperson for the MoPH. He added that the process of checking the emergency patients by doctors is going on the same as before.

At odds to MoPH remarks a number of very crowded private hospitals have stopped their operations even in the capital Kabul. One of those hospitals provided general health care services in Kabul for hundreds of patients on daily basis before the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the city. Since then, only a few number of patients are checked by a limited number of physicians in the private hospital. The number of its personnel has decreased to less than 20 people. A doctor, on condition of anonymity, told Kabul Now that many of his colleagues, fearing to be infected by the virus, have taken leaves.

Dr. Assadullah Esmat, head of Infectious Disease Hospital in Kabul, says that the hospital has only limited its operation for accepting emergency patients since the outbreak of the virus in Kabul.

According to health officials, they have currently prioritized their general health services for addressing maternal health care, heart diseases, and appendicitis.

Few days ago, Waheed Majroh, deputy health minister asserted at a press conference that the health sector must not focus all its attention to the Covid-19 disease. He urged for more attention in providing health care for addressing other illnesses as well.

According to the MoPH, currently there are 1,093 secondary health centers, 878 main health centers, 438 medical centers, 88 district hospitals, 302 mobile health teams, 791 other types of medical clinics, 27 provincial hospitals, 29 national specialty hospitals, nine regional hospitals, and 528 private hospitals in the country.

32,656 personnel are working at these medical centers. Out of which there are 1,363 health workers, 4,035 midwives, 1,246 laboratory technicians, 2,459 MD doctors, 1,415 specialist doctors, 282 pharmacists, 397 pharmacy technicians, 10,915 supportive staffs, 3,478 vaccinators, 122 nurse assistants, and 6,944 nurses.

Why health service delivery is inadequate?

According to the MoPH, up to 90 percent of people have access to health service and the coronavirus outbreak hasn’t affected the service delivery. However, the statement is denied by a number of health departments in provinces.

Khoshal Nabizada, head of public health in Kabul, confirms that medical services are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. He says that with the spread of coronavirus, the supply of medical services has decreased in Kabul. “Health sectors are now mostly focused on controlling the situation created by coronavirus,” he told Kabul Now. “This is a reason for limiting the provision of services to other patients.”

Although, Nabizada does not provide statistics, he says that currently the main focus of health sector is on corona patients and emergency patients. Health services have become limited for a number of health workers are infected by the coronavirus and are unable to work. Therefore, they cannot checkup many patients in a day. Additionally, a number of doctors are discharged due to having blood sugar, blood pressure, heart and kidney diseases. A number of female doctors are also discharged due to pregnancy issue. Overall the process of treating and admitting patients are getting slower than before. Due to observing social distance and their own safety, doctors do not checkup patients properly. As he continues, the people’s accessibility to hospitals is also negatively impacted by movement restrictions placed across the country.

Officials at the MoPH do not provide accurate figures on health officials who are infected by the coronavirus, but they say that 871 health officials are infected out of which 12 have passed away.

The health ministry on Tuesday, June 16, confirmed that the total number of coronavirus cases has reached 26,310 in the country. 491 people infected by the virus have passed away and 5508 others have recovered. According to official figures, Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Paktia are hard hit cities in the country.

The actual number of positives cases and death toll are higher than official figure.  

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