The Government of the Republic of Tajikistan states that it is taking all measures to prevent COVID-19, but some medical workers have quit due to the lack of protective equipment. The expert believes that the country needs really independent trade unions, who could protect the rights of medical workers.
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Lately, there have been many reports in Tajikistan that doctors need protective clothing due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some even quit for fear of catching the infection. Numerous videos from hospitals and patient appeals on social networks show that due to the lack of protective clothing the number of infected medical workers is increasing, and some of them have even died.Firuza Nabieva, a resident of Khujand, published a list of deceased doctors with their names and photos on her Facebook page on May 7. Her list included 10 deceased doctors from Khujand, Dushanbe and Tursunzoda.
“According to social networks, 10 Tajik doctors have already died from the coronavirus in 15 days in the period from April 23 to May 6. At this rate, this figure will reach 20 per month and 120 in 6 months. The death of the doctors is the death of a nation. Help the doctors, they should be protected,” she wrote.One Tajik doctor, on condition of anonymity, told CABAR.asia that most doctors buy protective clothing at their own expense.
“Actually, last week many doctors became infected with the virus due to the lack of protective clothing. Even cleaners have to buy protective clothing at their own expense. Some of them have already quit because their salary cannot cover this,” the doctor says.
According to him, if this continues, most of the doctors will leave the hospitals and the situation will worsen.“Fearing that my loved ones will get infected, I spend the night in the car and return to the hospital in the morning.” “The condition of the doctors is not very good. Imagine, we have to take care of the patients, hand over our turn to a colleague and then go home. This is dangerous not only for us, but also for our families. Fearing that my loved ones will get infected, I spend the night in the car and return to the hospital in the morning,” he added.
In the meantime, infectious disease doctor Abdumajid Juraev says that the central hospital of the city of Kanibadam, where he works, began to prepare against the fight with the coronavirus in February, long before the authorities recognized the presence of infection in the country.According to him, already at that time, protective suits, medicines and other necessary items were distributed among doctors, nurses and cleaners. “We began to prepare in advance for the fight against this disease. Our salary was increased twice and recently, as per the instructions of the Chairman of the Sughd region, food supplies were provided to doctors,” says Juraev. At the same time, he found it difficult to say whether doctors who became infected during work would be compensated.
However, other doctors believe that the authorities do not provide them adequate support. One of them has referred to the experience of the neighbouring Uzbekistan, where doctors are being paid an extra two and a half thousand dollars. And those who are infected are given 10, 5 thousand dollars.“We are risking our health and often our lives. Authorities should also pay us compensation for the risk. After all, not only we are at risk, but also our loved ones,” he said. In the meantime, Bibikhonum Darveshzoda, the press secretary of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population of the Republic of Tajikistan, told CABAR.asia that there is no data on the number of deceased doctors. “At the moment, we are compiling a list of doctors who have contracted the coronavirus, and also those who have died from this disease. We will provide the list when it will be completed,” Darveshzoda said. According to her, the Ministry of Health has instructed to compile a list of infected and deceased doctors in rural areas. Bibikhonum Darveshzoda also said that there are no exact figures on doctors who have resigned, but the Ministry is making every effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
As stated by expert Abdullo Davlatov, the death of medical workers – doctors, nurses and other health workers from the pandemic is observed across the world, as they are at the frontlines in the fight against it. For instance, there are also many reports in Russia that a group of doctors have resigned from a particular hospital due to lack of special supplies. A special website has been created in Russia for publishing the names of doctors who have died from COVID-19 on a daily basis.
“In any case, certainly, the authorities should do everything possible to ensure that the healthcare facilities and staff are fully equipped with all types of equipment and supplies,” Davlatov said.
Who should protect the labour rights of medical workers?
The spread of coronavirus among medical workers has sparked much controversy amongst the public and civil society. Experts believe that other rights of hospital staff are also violated in this situation. In this regard, several open letters from the representatives of the civil society to the Ministry of Health and Social Protection with appeals to provide support to the medical workers, were published on social networks.
Lawyer Shokirjon Hakimov considers that in light of the current situation, doctors have the right to compensation in case of getting infected or death. Also, as an additional measure, they have the right to demand the improvement of working conditions and the provision of legal, financial and economic support.“They can exercise their rights directly or through their relatives and children,” he added. According to him, Tajikistan needs independent trade unions that could protect the labour rights of the people. “The activities of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan do not meet the challenges of today. Its working methods, in spite of being renamed, have not changed since the Soviet Union. Trade unions are still under the control of the government. Therefore, they are refusing to protect even those rights and freedoms of citizens that are guaranteed by law,” the lawyer believes. He added that there is no transparency in the activities of trade unions and “they do not feel their responsibility towards the society.” According to the Ministry of Health, as of May 21, 2140 people infected with coronavirus were registered in Tajikistan, and a total of 41 people have died from this disease.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.