Is our medical sector ready for a spike in COVID-19?


The ability of our health care system to absorb a shock — what experts call surge capacity — is much weaker than many believe. Coronavirus has already sickened 88 people and killed at least 9. But those numbers could rise dramatically in this April. The worst scenario will be we won't have enough ventilators and ICU beds if there is a significant surge in the number of patients infected with the deadly coronavirus. 

Reportedly, in the capital, only a mere 29  ICU beds are available for coronavirus patients at five different hospitals. Moreover, there are no intensive care facilities dedicated for coronavirus patients at hospitals outside the capital. Now the question is it it possible for us to fight the deadly coronavirus with such a meager amount of ICU beds in our arsenal? However, on March 21, Health Minister Zahed Maleque spurred some hope in this regard saying that 100 intensive care beds would be installed to tackle the coronavirus situation. Gradually, a total of 400 new ICU beds would be set up. But the minister could not say when the beds would be installed.


One of the biggest obstacles Bangladesh will face in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic 

is a severe shortage of test kits and the supplies needed to perform the tests. Given that 

testing is crucial to get the people most at risk the care they need, the lack of testing 

and an increase in demand over supply is critical in determining how the next 

several weeks of the pandemic will play out


There has been concern over treatment facilities for elderly Covid-19 patients in the country as most of the persons who died from the virus were aged between 60 and 75. Experts are of the opinion that inadequate intensive care facilities across the country remain a major concern in treating elderly Covid-19 patients who are deemed most vulnerable to the deadly virus.

Elderly people with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetics and hypertension are very vulnerable to coronavirus infection. If they get infected, a large portion of them will need intensive care and ventilation.

But there is a huge gap between demand and supply in terms of intensive care facilities. ICU management in the country is very poor. ICUs in private hospital are not up to the mark for a lack of necessary equipment and skilled manpower.

Considering the situation, the government should take immediate measures to increase intensive care facilities across the country, and set up a specialized hospital with adequate number of ICU beds to treat coronavirus patients. Covid-19 patients should be treated in a designated hospital, and ventilation and other facilities at the ICU should be there.

One of the biggest obstacles Bangladesh will face in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic is a severe shortage of test kits and the supplies needed to perform the tests. Given that testing is crucial to get the people most at risk the care they need, the lack of testing and an increase in demand over supply is critical in determining how the next several weeks of the pandemic will play out. Adequate and accurate testing is also crucial to help stop the spread of disease since many who have been exposed can display no symptoms.

 However, beyond a shortage of testing kits, beds and ventilators for patients, healthcare workers expressed fears about the lack of protective gear available to keep themselves and others safe. Lack of sufficient quantity of personal protective equipment (PPE) is imperiling the ability of medical workers to fight the coronavirus — and putting their own lives at risk.

Experts are of the opinion that the country’s preparedness to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus infection is inadequate till now. Health workers say their fear of getting exposed is increasing as they do not have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) — like masks, gloves, and gowns — and infected patients could walk into the hospital at any moment. The lack of PPE shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

Without adequate PPE, our workforce will be decimated. Who will then be left to look after the patients? When medical staff doesn’t have the proper protective gear, they put not only themselves at risk but other patients as well. If healthcare providers get sick or are exposed to the new coronavirus and need to self-quarantine, the patient-to-provider ratio will inflate:  There will be less qualified healthcare workers who are able to take care of an increasing number of patients. This sort of vicious cycle can accelerate the impact of the disease on the community. 

The longer this epidemic goes on for, if doctors feel that there is a widespread lack of personal protective equipment [PPE], then some doctors may feel they have no choice but to give up the profession they love, because they feel so abandoned by not being given the PPE that the World Health Organization recommends. That’s the travesty of this situation, that the government needs to protect frontline health workers and in return they will give 100%.


Sayeed Hossain Bhuiyan Shuvro is Editorial Assistant, Bangladesh Post