ICRC and SZABIST collaborate to Protect Healthcare Workers
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ICRC and SZABIST collaborate to Protect Healthcare Workers

ICRC and SZABIST for Healthcare Workers

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) joined forces to organize a three-day engaging session for media capacity building aimed at fostering a better understanding of the legal framework surrounding offenses against healthcare workers. The event, titled “Sindh Health Service Providers and Facilities (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2021 and the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2018 – Legal Framework for Journalists Understanding Offences Against Healthcare Workers,” took place at a local hotel in Karachi.

The engagement session brought together esteemed guests, including healthcare professionals, legal experts, media practitioners, and representatives from various organizations, to shed light on the legal provisions safeguarding healthcare workers and their facilities. The event aimed to enhance awareness, promote ethical reporting, and encourage collaborative solutions to address the alarming rise in violence against healthcare professionals.

Dr. Syeda Mehwish Zara Zaidi, Head of the Department of Media Sciences at SZABIST shared her views and said, “This partnership between SZABIST and ICRC is very important for us. This partnership enables us to create new knowledge and awareness for the masses, public policy professionals, law enforcement agencies, healthcare professionals, and other institutes” She further said, “Through these interactions, we are able to build the capacity of the media professionals and field reporters to report on creating awareness about the law and rights of the people in the society. These interactions have created a positive dialogue to build an understanding of the Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property Act, 2021, and how to report incidents in a more ethical and fact-based manner.

Dr. Muhammad Bilal Siddiqui, a leading public health specialist and faculty member of SZABIST, delivered a talk on the Health Care in Danger Initiative (HcID) and the significance of its dissemination campaign. The initiative aims to protect healthcare workers and preserve healthcare facilities in conflict zones and other volatile environments.

Renowned legal expert and law faculty of SZABIST, Barrister Rufruf Chaudhary provided an overview of the Sindh Health Service Providers and Facilities (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2021, along with insights into the relevant provisions of the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2018. This comprehensive legal framework aims to prevent violence, damage to property, and obstruction of healthcare services while ensuring the safety and security of healthcare professionals.

Barrister Chaudhary, during the engagement session, provided an overview of the legal framework pertaining to offenses against healthcare workers. The Sindh Health Service Providers and Facilities (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Act, 2021, along with the Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2018, were highlighted for their significance in safeguarding healthcare professionals and their facilities.

The Sindh Health Service Providers and Facilities Act, 2021, prohibits any offense against a person within a healthcare facility or against a healthcare provider while performing their duties. It recognizes the gravity of acts causing death or hurt, with corresponding punishments under the law. Additionally, the Act addresses acts causing damage to property, whether private or public and provides provisions for penalties. The Act further identifies actions that result in serious injury or mental anguish and prescribes imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of at least PKR 50,000/-, or both punishments.

It also addresses acts causing obstruction of healthcare services, which are punishable with imprisonment for up to three years, a fine of at least PKR 50,000/-, or both punishments. Moreover, actions likely to cause obstruction are punishable with imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of at least PKR 50,000/-, or both punishments.

In addition to these provisions, the Act emphasizes the responsibility of healthcare services and providers to provide information to patients and guardians, maintain patient confidentiality, uphold healthcare ethics, and ensure compliance with safety measures. It also outlines the repercussions for wrongful damage or loss to property, with penalties varying based on the value and nature of the damage caused.

The Provincial Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2018, complements the Sindh Health Service Providers and Facilities Act by addressing offenses against healthcare workers related to motor vehicles. It highlights the importance of ensuring the safety and security of healthcare professionals while carrying out their duties.

By providing an in-depth understanding of these legal provisions, the engagement sessions aimed to equip journalists with the knowledge to effectively report on offenses against healthcare workers. It underscored the significance of responsible journalism in raising public awareness and fostering a safe environment for healthcare professionals.

The panel discussion on ethical reporting and public awareness featured prominent media personalities, including Amir Zia, President and Editor in Chief of BOL Media Group, Taban Zafar, a Thought Leader and Senior Executive Producer at ARY News, and Amir Jahangir, a distinguished member of the Experts Thought Leader Network at the World Economic Forum and Puruesh Chaudhary, Founder and President of AGAHI. The panelists emphasized the vital role of responsible journalism in cases involving offenses against healthcare workers and the significance of media in creating public awareness while making the stakeholders accountable for the legal framework that protects healthcare professionals.

During the group activity session, participants collaborated to devise practical solutions and strategies to combat violence and offenses against healthcare workers. The diverse range of perspectives contributed to constructive discussions and the sharing of valuable experiences.

This collaborative initiative between ICRC and SZABIST University represents a joint effort to strengthen understanding, promote dialogue, and create a safer environment for healthcare professionals in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan.

Related: Workshop on Ethical healthcare reporting held by ICRC, JSMU and KMU

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