COVID-19 patients shuttle between Dhaka hospitals

Daily deaths rise to 77, getting ICU bed becomes matter of luck

Manzur H Maswood | Published: 00:30, Apr 11,2021 | Updated: 00:52, Apr 11,2021


It has become a matter of great luck for critical COVID-19 patients to get an ICU bed at a government hospital as the health system has been facing an overwhelming pressure due to the rising influx of coronavirus patients.

Critical COVID-19 patients in need of ICU support are shuttling from hospital to hospital in vain while few fortunate ones with high-level connections obtain the facility.

As the capital has the concentration of COVID-19 patients, the availability of ICU beds has severely shrunk in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka.

The low number of ICU beds at the government hospitals has been almost full every day. A new patient gets the facility only when one dies or recovers vacating a bed.

‘It’s a matter of great distress to see that patients are shuttling between hospitals to get care,’ said Nazrul Islam, a former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.

‘We got more than one year for the preparations, but we did not act. We did not prepare our hospitals over the period and now we have fallen into a catastrophic situation,’ he said.

One year into the coronavirus outbreak, the government facilities have failed to arrange adequate services, especially critical care, for COVID-19 patients.

In April last year the government hospitals in the capital had 95 ICU beds but the figure has meanwhile risen to 132 only.

On Saturday afternoon, only seven of the 132 beds were vacant. At about 5:00pm officials said that there was no vacant ICU bed at any government hospital in the capital.

Mahbub Alam, a resident of the capital, told New Age on the day that his relatives had been in search of an ICU accommodation for his cousin for days but they could not find one even at a private hospital.

He said that the man in his 50s was taking treatment at home before being shifted to a hospital after his condition deteriorated 10 days ago.

‘After his condition became critical doctors said that my cousin needed ICU supports, but we could not manage a bed,’ he said, adding that they have searched every hospital in the capital for an ICU bed.

Dhaka Medical College Hospital assistant director Alauddin Al Azad said that every day he had been receiving a good number of phone calls requesting ICU  accommodation for COVID-19 patients.

‘We are keeping many patients in general beds although they need the ICU services,’ he said.

‘If we had 100 ICU beds all of them would have remained full every day,’ he said, adding that they have only 20 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients.

Mugda Medical College Hospital has 19 ICU beds for COVID-19 patients. The hospital’s anaesthesiologist Shoman Aniruddha said that they had not a single ICU available.

He further said that every day around 30 patients were on wait for ICU facilities but they had nothing to do.

Directorate General of Health Services director for hospital Farid Hossain Miah said that last week his brother-in-law was in need of an ICU bed but he could not arrange it.

‘We are trying to increase the number of ICU beds,’ he said, adding that work is underway to install 200 ICU beds at the Dhaka North City Corporation hospital at Mohakhali.

Bangladesh on March 8 last year detected its first three COVID-19 cases.

Exactly one year after the outbreak, the country witnessed a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths after a gradual improvement since last September.

The situation improved in January and February, recording 50–150 weekly COVID-19 deaths and 2,400–6,000 weekly cases.

The positivity rate also dropped to around 2-5 per cent in January and February.

In the 57th week of the outbreak, ending Saturday, the country’s weekly cases surged to 48,660, the number of weekly deaths spiked to 448 and the weekly positivity rate hit 22.04 per cent.

In the past 24-hour period ending at 8:00am Saturday, the Directorate General of Health Services recorded 77 deaths and 5,343 cases.

The positivity rate was 20.49 per cent in the 24-hour period.

With the latest figures, Bangladesh’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 9,661 and the number of cases 6,78,937.

Compared to the 56th week, the 57th week witnessed a 26.48 per cent rise in the number of cases and a 30.23 per cent hike in the number of deaths.

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