ISLAMABAD-The World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala on Tuesday said that the country is facing acute shortage of nurses and the strength needs to be doubled to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goal.

In a statement released by WHO on the World Health Day, Dr. Palitha Mahipala emphasised that hospitals are run by nurses not by doctors. Unfortunately there is acute shortage of nurses and midwives in Pakistan.We have a density of nurses and midwives of 0.49 per 1,000 population compared to the recommended threshold of 3.28 nurses and midwives/1,000 population.

Dr Palitha Mahipala emphasised that in order to achieve the target of Universal Health Coverage we have to double production of nurses and midwives, with enhanced quality of professional education.

He highlighted that WHO had launched the first-ever “State of the World’s Nursing” report in 2020, prior to the 73rd World Health Assembly. The report will describe the nursing workforce in WHO member states, providing an assessment of “fitness for purpose” relative to GPW13 targets and achievement of UHC and SDGs.

He informed that Ministry of National health Services Regulation and Coordination has ambitious plans for nursing and midwifery and WHO will support every step of this initiative through our technical experts in the areas of enhancing health workforce production and retention, improved nursing education and leadership capacities, strengthening health workforce information system and health workforce observatory for nursing, strengthening the regulation of health workforce practice and education.

Dr Palitha Mahipala also visited Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Islamabad on World Health Day and handed over scrub dresses to Executive Director PIMS and Chief Nursing Superintendent for nurses and midwives.

Dr Palitha emphasised that WHO pays tribute to health workers being on the frontline in response to COVID-19 pandemic.

In a message on the occasion, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari, Regional Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region, said that in this region, the history of nursing goes back to earlier days. There is a reference to Rufaida Al-Aslamia as the first female Muslim nurse and the first female surgeon in Islam.

He said that nurses and midwives have a crucial role to play in achieving Universal Health Coverage and the health-related Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that “no one is left behind.”

“We want to highlight their commitment and the hard work they do to make our world healthier, safer and better,” he said.

He also said that health workers, including nurses and midwives, are working tirelessly day and night to care for patients and save their lives. In fighting COVID-19, they are risking their own health and even their lives.

Not only might they become infected with the disease themselves, but they also face distress, fatigue and burnout because of the long hours they work, and some may also face stigma and violence. So it is more important than ever that we pay tribute to nurses, midwives and other health workers, and do everything we can to keep them safe and secure.

“That commitment is clearer than ever at the moment, as the world faces the devastating threat of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” said Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari