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Terrorism brings psychological problems for health workers too

By Ashfaq Yusufzai 2013-11-11
PESHAWAR, Nov 10: Health care providers at the province`s major hospitals have been suffering from psychological problems because they frequently treat the victims of bomb and suicide attacks at the state-run hospitals, doctors and health workers say.

The worst-affected of them are the paramedics, nurses and doctors at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, which is home to a bulk of the victims of militants` violence.

`Yes, of course, the medical staff suffer from psychological problems such as stress and trauma because they have been involved in provision of first-aid to the injured from terror attacks, chief executive officer of the LRH Prof Arshad Javaid told Dawn when asked by this reporter.

He said that he had been receiving complaints that some nurses had psychological problems when they saw people with complex injuries. `It is very natural for the staff to develop problems when they see blood stained bodies of women and children,` he said.

`Despite suffering from psychological problems, our staff have become so used to coping with casualties from the bomb and suicide attacks that they don`t feel any difficulty. It is theduty of the staff to provide prompt treatment to the critically wounded persons,` said Prof Javaid.

Roidar Shah, president of the LRH Paramedical Association, told Dawn that they had been facing many problems while coping with mass emergencies in the hospital`s accident and emergency department (AED).

`I often burst into tears when I see charred bodies of children. Being regular members of the health care providers attending the victims of terror attacks, many other colleagues have also made similar complaints,` he said.

Mr Shah said that the staff involved in life-saving procedures in the aftermath of terror strikes ran a risk of developing psychological problems when they saw mutilated bodies of children and women.

`However, we are professional people and focus on patient care, but the stress we suffer is also a reality,` he said.

About 150 of 563 paramedics of the LRH rush to the AED when blasts occur, he said. `It is not possible for the routine staff to handle a mass emergency, therefore, we have developed a culture to reach the department soon after a blastor other such emergency to deal with load of patients through collective efforts,` he said.

He said that the paramedics not only bandaged and conducted X-rays on patients, but also shuttled between the blood bank and CT scan room to ensure their best possible care.

`I have several times seen in dream the charred bodies of children from bomb attacks,` said senior nurse Ms Gulfam. She said that prolonged violence had reshaped lives of the health professionals, many of whom treated them like their own people.

`We have been witnessing the bloodiest scenes due to which sometimes it becomes difficult to have a sound sleep without taking pills, she said. Dr Javed Khan, who is working at the district headquarters hospital, Mardan, said that one in 10 medical staffers had developed symptoms of some kind of psychological illness during the past five years. He said that he had examined dozens of staff members who required antidepressants to recover from strain.

`The staff receives a share of grief and trauma when they attend the people from terror attacks, but this does not affect their professional work, he said.