Only 112 ICU beds for coronavirus patients in Bangladesh

Lack of treatment preparations may spell disaster

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:36, Apr 08,2020 | Updated: 13:33, Apr 08,2020


With the number of COVID-19 patients soaring by the day, the government has so far arranged only 112 intensive care unit beds for such patients, who need this facility for easing of their breathing difficulty.

‘We’ve arranged 112 ICU beds for the COVID-19 patients across the country,’ said Health Services directorate general Abul Kalam Azad.

‘We’re preparing for more ICU facilities,’ he added in the daily online news bulletin.

Bangladesh on March 8 confirmed its first coronavirus infections about three months after the novel virus broke out in China.

The first death from COVID-19 was reported on March 18 and the number of such patients is now soaring every day.

On Friday, the number of new cases of infection was five but it rose to nine on Saturday, 18 on Sunday, 35 on Monday and 41 on Tuesday. 

Public health experts said that the government ‘completely failed’ to take preparations for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Rashid-e-Mahbub, a former president of Bangladesh Medical Association and chairman of Bangladesh Health Rights Movement, foresees an inevitable disaster.

The three districts outside the capital — Narayanganj, Madaripur and Gaibandha — which have been identified as coronavirus-prone areas also lack emergency preparations for treating COVID-19 patients.

None of the three districts has a single ICU bed. They also lack general hospital beds for COVID-19 patients and ambulances for shifting such patients.

Fear is growing among people as the coronavirus has already spread to over 15 districts.

Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research director Meerjady Sabrina Flora on Monday at the daily briefing said that two COVID-19 patients died soon after they were brought to the capital’s Kuwait-Friendship Hospital from Narayanganj.

On Tuesday she said that Narayanganj appeared to be a ‘hot spot’ for COVID-19 as 15 more people were detected with the novel coronavirus there in the day.

But her Monday’s statement has exposed the government’s lack of preparation for COVID-19 patients, said Rashid-e-Mahbub.

Narayanganj civil surgeon Mohammad Imtiaz on Tuesday told New Age that they had no ICU facilities at any government hospital in the district.

The district has one 300-bed hospital, one 100-bed hospital and four 50-bed hospitals and 30 of the hospital beds are allocated for COVID-19 patients, he said. 

But, he said, no COVID-19 patients are being treated at the hospitals as those are not suitable for treating such patients.

All the patients detected in Narayanganj are therefore being shifted to Dhaka, the civil surgeon said.

The district has six ambulances for ferrying the COVID-19 patients to the capital, he said.

On Tuesday Narayanganj had 1,360 houses under lockdown and 640 people were in home quarantine in the district, said civil surgeon Imtiaz, admitting that their preparations for tackling COVID-19 were not adequate.

Madaripur, parts of which were first to come under lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, has also been identified by the DGHS as a coronavirus-risky area.

But this district, too, has no ICU facilities for coronavirus patients. It has only 41 isolation beds allocated for such patients.

At least 11 COVID-19 patients were detected in the district as of Sunday.

‘We have to transport patients to the capital if their condition becomes critical,’ said Madaripur civil surgeon Shafiqul Islam.

He told New Age that it needed four to 12 hours for an ambulance to reach the capital.

Gaibandha is another district to have been designated as a coronavirus-affected area.

Five people have been detected in the district and they are now under treatment at hospitals there.

But the situation there is no different than in Narayanganj and Madaripur.

‘We have no ICU beds for COVID-19 patients,’ Gaibandha civil surgeon ABM Abu Hanif said, adding, ‘Any critical patients will be transported to Rangpur Medical College Hospital, which is about two-hour drive from Gaibandha.

He said that six areas in Gaibandha were identified as coronavirus-risky and 158 people were now in quarantine in the district.

Hanif said that they had 35 beds at different hospitals in the district for COVID-19 patients and seven ambulances to ferry patients.

DGHS chief Abul Kalam Azad said that they prepared 7,693 isolation beds for COVID-19 patients across the country — 1,550 in the capital and 6,143 in the districts.

Of the total 112 ICU beds prepared for the COVID-19 patients in the country, 33 are outside the capital — 26 in Mymensingh, five in Khulna and two in Sylhet, he added.

Of the total 7,693 isolation beds, Dhaka division has 697, Chattogram 848, Mymensingh 1,030, Barishal 545, Sylhet 346, Rajshahi 1,200, Khulna 690 and Rangpur has 787 beds.

Rashid-e-Mahbub, also a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, said that the government had no effective planning to increase treatment facilities for COVID-19 patients.

‘It’s shambolic,’ he said about the government preparations, adding, ‘A disaster is inevitable.’

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