Special Correspondent of The Consul, Farhan Khan interviewed Dr. Rizwan Naseer, the Founder and DG of the modern Ambulance Rescue Service 1122 on coronavirus crisis. He is also Founder of Emergency Management System of Pakistan, serving 110 million people of Punjab. Excerpts from the interview:
Farhan Khan: Dr. Rizwan, people are panic-stricken, they are calling the help lines to report unconfirmed coronavirus cases, so what kind of calls are you receiving?
Rizwan Naseer: In this Coronavirus crises Rescue 1122 deals with almost 2000 medical emergencies and nearly 900 traffic accidents. Due to the current situation traffic accidents have surely deteriorated, but the medical emergencies remain the same, somewhat more than 2000. People normally have heart issues, breathing difficulties, but now as the people are more panicked they are linking each and every death with the novel coronavirus. I have a sincere request for all the people, if there is any such issue or a case that you want to report you can do it on the “Corona Rescue Help Line 1190” that we have started.
FK: How does the help line work?
RN: We have created a special help line for Corona 1190. We take the whole data, ask questions and if the information indicates any chance of Covid-19, we have mapped it all out, we follow certain strategies; we have ambulances that deal with the patients and neutralize their concerns. Our call centre is active 24/7. We guide the people regarding the precautions and preventions, as preventions are better than cure. The real challenge is that every emergency isn’t a corona emergency, people have failed to differentiate between the corona emergency and the normal medical emergencies. If you call the wrong helpline the patient might not get the right kind of treatment as the equipment might not be available. We have to fight Covid-19, not freak out. if you have any doubts contact the corona helpline 1190, and if there is a medical emergency immediately contact the rescue helpline 1122.
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FK: How would you address the people who are frightened, how to fight the disease? And moreover what are you doing to raise awareness?
RN: To the people I would request to follow the instructions given by the government and remain isolated, stay home. if there is a doubt, use masks in your home, so no one gets affected. You can enhance your diet; consume more fruits, vegetables to improve your immunity and the most important of all DO 30 minutes of exercise, daily but indoors. When it’s a compulsion and you need to leave your house, take all the precautions. Avoid touching things, but if you do, sanitize your hands, instantly but it’s better to wash your hands. Try to help yourself; authorities cannot do everything for you. By just staying home we can control this pandemic [Insha’Allah].
FK: Okay. I would like to ask that if anybody passes away, even if it is from a heart failure, the first news that is broadcasted is that the person had Coronavirus. So what is your take on that?
RN: You’ve highlighted a very important point. Don’t forget principles of humanity. We are getting calls from people, who are unnecessarily calling us to inform us about the demise of their relatives, it’s pitiful. As I said earlier, before this whole situation nearly 70-80 people died because of medical issues and the number is constant now. Not every death is because of Covid-19. If there is a patient who comes for corona, there are specific symptoms and tests that are done. If a person passes away, we have certain initiatives like we seal the body, it is shifted carefully and the area is disinfected and then there is a proper burial.
FK: You do the burial?
RN: This is another challenge we face. Nobody wants to do the burial, so Rescue 1122 took the responsibility. We first seal the body, then disinfect it, after that put it in the coffin and then bury it.
FK: What happens when a person dies of Coronavirus or not and the relatives want to join in the funeral ceremony, because the government policies are different?
RN: Yes, people want to join the funeral but the funeral prayer is offered at a distance so nobody gets infected. The gathering isn’t that large and only the close relatives are allowed, as large gatherings are dangerous nowadays. They can say the Dua and all but from a distance. The process is done with extreme dignity.
FK: The drug addicts on the roads are another reason for the terror among people. So what measures are being taken regarding that?
RN: A very important question. These people lie on the footpaths or the roads. They are disowned by their families and they start taking drugs. Previously people would just walk past them as if they didn’t exist, but now they are raising eyebrows as if they are the having the virus and are spreading it. We need to understand that the currently we aren’t facing a crisis this big, that people are dying at the roadsides due to Corona. If there is a situation as such, give us a call so we can give them appropriate drug addiction facilities. But because of this panic and fear is being spread and we shouldn’t support it. We have to fight Covid-19 and not panic or get scared.