Iran faces medical worker shortage as COVID-19 crisis shows no signs of slowing

Iranian officials in charge of combatting the coronavirus have warned they are running short of medical staff.

al-monitor An Iranian doctor works on the production of COVID-19 test kits at a medical center in Karaj, in the northern Alborz Province, April 11, 2020.  Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 27, 2020

Despite massive efforts, lockdowns and province by province policy, Iran continues to grapple with the coronavirus, which shows no signs of slowing down as officials warn they are running short of medical workers.

According to Health Ministry Spokesman Sima Sadar Lari, 212 people died from the virus in the last 24 hours. In April, Iran was able to bring its daily death toll down to below triple digits, but in the last two weeks the country has been seeing on average 200 deaths a day — its highest average since the Health Ministry began publicly announcing numbers. Iran’s total number of confirmed coronavirus-related deaths is now 15,912.

Currently, the country has placed 12 of its 31 provinces under a red zone label, meaning the governors and city officials of those provinces must follow more restrictive health guidelines. Some critics have said the health guidelines are not being followed. President Hassan Rouhani said July 26 office workspaces that do not adhere to the health guidelines set forth by the Health Ministry will face legal consequences, though he did not say whether they would be fined or receive other types of punishment.

Thirteen provinces have been placed under a warning label, including the capital city of Tehran, meaning they could soon be placed under the red zone label. Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi called Tehran the “broadcast source” of coronavirus to the rest of the country, especially surrounding provinces, given the high level of traffic to the city. Lari said between 300,000 and 400,000 residents from Alborz travel daily to Tehran province.

Harirchi also said 95% of those who are infected with the virus recover without any type of treatment. Given this number, he said, some feel their improvement was due to various home remedy treatments. He warned against taking such actions.

Given that Iran is now in its sixth month of dealing with the virus as well as the high level of infections and even deaths among health care workers, there is a need for more medical staff in the country. Alireza Zali, head of Tehran’s Government Headquarters for Combatting the Coronavirus, wrote a letter to the Health Ministry asking for permission to hire more health care workers. According to Aftab Yazd newspaper, the letter stated, “Given the continuation of the ascending trends and increase in coronavirus infections in the country and especially in Tehran and the excessive tiredness of the health and medical staff and the periodic exit of health and medical workers from work due to infection of this illness … I implore you to issue hiring permissions through the Administrative and Recruitment Affairs Organization.”

Zali also requested conscript military soldiers who specialize in medicine and nursing be sent to hospitals to aide in the efforts to fight against the coronavirus due to staff shortages. Aftab Yazd said officials have not responded to such requests. The article stated that while previously they had announced 3,000 medical workers would be hired, that need is closer to 9,000.

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