Iranian nurses: victims of Covid-19 and destructive policies

Analysis by PMOI/MEK

Iran, May 19, 2021—As Iran’s Covid-19 crisis continued to escalate and many Iranians died every day, Iranian regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei banned the purchase of globally approved vaccines on January 6 and said: “American and British vaccines are not allowed in the country. I told the officials this before and I say it publicly now.”

Although the regime has vaccinated a very limited number of people, medical staff and in particular Iranian nurses as high-risk groups have been victims of the regime’s inhumane policy over the past 14 months.

On April 15, the state-run Resalat daily ran a piece titled “Iranian nurses, the definite victims of Covid-19.” Resalat wrote, “The miserable conditions of Iranian nurses and the delay in vaccinating this group of medical staff is undeniable. They have no strength left. Iranian nurses have reached the point of exhaustion and desperation.”

So far, the regime has not provided accurate statistics on the vaccination of Iranian nurses and medical staff across the country.

On May 12, Setareyeh Sobh daily quoted Mohammad Mirzabeighi, the head of Iranian Nursing Organization, as saying, “So far, about 5,000 nurses in Tehran province have announced on the website of the Nursing System that they have not been vaccinated yet. It has only been three days since they (officials) announced that we will provide a list of qualified nurses to allocate vaccine quotas.”

Setareyeh Sobh quoted Mohammadreza Sharifi Moghadam, Secretary General of the Nursing House, as saying, “About 100 countries around the world have vaccinated their medical staff and nurses, which means that the first shipment of vaccines imported to these countries has been allocated to health care workers. Now imagine that eight of Iranian nurses have died of Covid-19 since March. It is like sending a soldier to the battlefield without ammunition. In this situation, our soldiers will be defeated. The Minister of Health, the President and other officials must be held accountable!”

Charging nurses for vaccination

In other countries, a lot of vaccines and other facilities are freely provided to medical staff to strengthen them in the covid response. But in Iran, not only do nurses not have enough equipment, but the regime is even charging the medical staff for vaccination.

On April 7, Kar Va Kargar website quoted Sharifi Moghadam as saying, “There are about 170,000 to 180,000 nurses in the country, many of whom have contracted the virus. There are more than 400,000 medical staff in the country. We must not endanger their health by delaying vaccination until and later say that the nurses are martyrs!… Iranian nurses pay one, two, or three, million rials for months of resisting against Covid-19, and they’re paying this amount just to stay alive, which is very disturbing.”

Iran’s nurses have the highest death toll in the world

After Qassem Soleimani’s death, Khamenei immediately donated 200 million euros to the terrorist Quds Force. But over the past year he has not allocated sufficient funds to provide the necessary equipment and vaccines to prevent medical staff from contracting Covid-19.

The regime’s minister of health said: “We did something that left the whole world speechless.”

But the secretary general of the Nursing House responded: “The world is speechless indeed. So far, the minimum death toll (because of Covid-19) of Iranian nurses has been about 130, which is the highest number in the world compared to the population of Iranian nurses.” (Source: Jahan-e Sanat daily, May 5)

According to a May 12 report by Setareyeh Sobh, Kianush Jahanpour, spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration, claimed: “Iran is one of the countries with the lowest Covid-19 infection among the medical staff.” The same report quoted Mirzabeighi as saying: “More than 100,000 nurses have been diagnosed with the Covid-19. At any time, 6,000-7,000 nurses in the country are quarantined for Covid-19.”

Suicide among the medical staff

While serial suicides among medical staff have leaked to the state-run media, health minister Saeed Namaki and First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri held a joint meeting with a medical team on April 30 and claimed, “Iran has come out of this [Covid-19] crisis so far proudly.”

Jahangiri ignored the news about suicide among nurses and hospitals not paying nurses’ salaries and said: “The government decided to pay a section of 500 trillion rials of facilities with a 12 percent interest rate to this sector as well.”

On May 12, Setareyeh Sobh ran a piece titled, “Analyzing the response to suicides among medical staff,” and wrote, “Job burnout rate, depression and eventual some young doctors’ suicide has been unprecedented in the last 50 years as the world struggles with the Covid-19. In our country, a number of interns and medical assistants have committed suicide in recent weeks.”

But the regime has been trying to dismiss the issue of suicides among nurses. On May 4, the Rokna news agency quoted Hossein Kermanpour, Public Relations Manager of the Medical Council Organization, as saying, “Precise information has not yet been completed and an investigation into the deaths is under way.”

On May 5, Jahan-e Sanat quoted Sharifi Moghadam as saying, “Apart from the fact that the Iranian people are not well for various reasons, especially the Covid-19 crisis, the Iranian nurses are faring any better. In recent days, a number of nurses and medical assistants have chosen voluntary death (suicide)… In just one week, three of the best medical assistants have chosen to end their own lives. Iranian nurses barely make ends meet so experts blame low-income for choosing such deaths.”

Poverty is the main cause of suicide among medical staff

On December 21, Khamenei tried to shrug off his responsibility in the tragic situation of nurses and lay the blame on others by saying, “Three of four years ago, I told the officials that you should hire about 30,000 nurses but they had problems and apologized.”

The Deputy Minister of Education of the Medical Council Organization considered poverty as the reason of suicide of a number of assistants in specialized fields and said: “This group is one of the underserved and hardworking segments of the medical community, and the residency period is one of the most difficult periods in the life of a doctor in Iran, because this group is facing various problems, including education, economy and livelihood at the same time. Very low income, which is less than 40 million rials per month, and usually at this age, some assistants have a family, and they are responsible for their spouses and children.”(Source: ILNA, May 12)

Up to 150 to 500 nurses migrate monthly

In the past 14 months since the outbreak of Covid-19, due to the poor living conditions and the collapse of the economy, a large number of Iranian nurses have been forced to migrate, and their number is estimated up to 500 per month.

According to Hamid Reza Azizi, the development and management deputy of the Iranian Nursing Organization, between 100 and 120 nurses immigrated from Iran every month in 2020.

Meanwhile, Armin Zareian, the chairman of the board of directors of the Tehran Nursing Organization, told the ISNA news agency on March 30 that the number of nurses migrating per month was up to 500. “Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, about 500 nurses have migrated from Iran every month to countries such as Canada, Sweden and some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf,” Zareian said. “In our country, salary payment is very defective, and this causes people to completely lose their motivation to serve and stay when they see discrimination and injustice in the healthcare sector.”

Corruption in the Ministry of Health

Corruption in the regime is so systematic that continues even in the harsh conditions of the Covid-19 outbreak.

From stealing 3000 billion rials in the budget 2020 to losing 3 million tons of steel in 2020 to corruption in the budget of the Ministry of Health…. This is just another part of corruption that has been reflected in the government press.

On May 5, Jahan-e Sanat quoted Sharifi Moghaddam as saying, “Now in the Covid-19 outbreak, the budget of the Ministry of Health has become even larger than before. But due to the lack of transparency, rents and systematic corruption in the health system, it is not clear where and how these funds are spent. The budget of the Ministry of Health is not transparent at all. Health ministry officials consider nurses as tools and workers who have to work to fill these gentlemen’s pockets! Why should Iranian nurses lose their lives after the vaccine is produced? 1.2 billion people have been vaccinated across the world today, and we are still short of vaccinating one million people. In my opinion, the Minister of Health is the cause of death of all 70,000 people who died.”

The Iranian people in general and the medical staff in particular are under heavy livelihood pressures and are even committing suicide out of poverty. Meanwhile, the mullahs and the Revolutionary Guards are looting a large amount of people’s capital or spending it on terrorism and repression.

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