Treatment facilities for serious patients suffering from coronavirus infection is still far too less than it is actually required.
Experts, closely monitoring the situation, blame the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) for their lack of planning and seriousness to act on time to have medical logistics ready for emergency at a time like the current global pandemic.
Despite some handful number of specifically identified hospitals for Covid-19 treatment spread across the country, sadly 47 out of 64 districts do not have any Intensive Care Unit (ICU) needed to treat most patients commonly suffering from breathlessness along with other complications.
Such scenario clearly demonstrates the lack of seriousness and planning of the government in addressing such emergency situation like the global pandemic where thousands of patients are infected and dying everyday even in most advanced nations where healthcare is rated some of the world’s best.
Experts said that a ventilator machine, that provides air (oxygen) by mechanically moving breathable air into a patient’s lungs to breath artificially, is a vital medical device in ICU needed to keep a critically Covid-19 patient alive.
Such machines along with some other devices are now need of the hour but experts pointed out that the health directorate literally did nothing to keep things ready considering the potentials of the number of patients.
Meanwhile, the country has recorded five more deaths from coronavirus in last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 168. Those who tested positive so far stood at 7,667 after 564 new cases were confirmed from 4,965 samples during last 24 hours, according to DGHS.
According to officials concerned, only 17 of the districts have ICUs with total 173 ventilators for Covid-19 patients. There is no ICU support for those patients who may be infected by Covid-19 in the rest of the 47 districts.
Patients of those 47 districts would have to either transfer to other districts or shift to capital Dhaka where there are 147 ICUs with 3,190 beds in nine government hospitals.
However, only six out of those nine government hospitals are earmarked to provide Covid-19 treatment facilities and sadly they have only 21 ICUs with 754 beds for a population of more than 10 million – many of who could be potentially suffering from Covid-19 infection.
On the other hand, amid the poor preparations and logistic supports, health experts have expressed their concern over spreading of the deadly coronavirus in the future.
Many of the experts fear that with the current trend in Covid-19 infection rate patients may suddenly substantially increase. They estimate that the number infected persons could reach as high as 50,000 to about 1,00,000 by end of May while the death toll may rise to about 1,000.
Presided over by Health Minister Zahid Malek, at a meeting held on April 21, Director General of the Directorate of Health Services, Prof Abul Kalam Azad briefed the media on the progress of prevention and treatment of coronavirus patients and the next steps to be taken.
Professor Azad said that millions of people could be infected with the coronavirus. Considering dealing with such a worse scenario, healthcare is being strengthened and prepared accordingly with its maximum capacity.
However, many factors have been considered and used in modeling these scenarios. Such as: lockdown, public awareness, maintaining physical distance, etc. According to the World Health Organisation's medical guidelines, 20 percent of the total affected patients usually require hospital care, he informed.
In this context IEDCR advisor Mustaq Hossain told journalists that such modeling is done considering many factors in the case of such epidemics in the developed world. It is not to cause panic. This is done mainly to take the necessary preparations considering the situation.
At the 21 April meeting, Dr Aminul, a Director of the Health Directorate (Hospitals and Clinics) said, “A mapping of public-private hospitals and clinics has been completed to provide hospital facilities to corona patients across the country.”
According to him, at present 6,000 beds are officially ready for the treatment of Covid-19. In contrast, experts who are closely reviewing the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh said that the number of beds available is still far too less for the patients who could potentially be infected with Covid-19.
He, however, said that a total of 20,000 beds are being prepared across the country by both public and private sectors. But in reality, there are 9,636 beds available for treatment of Covid-19 treatment all over the country, including the capital and of them, there are only 341 ICU beds.
Statistics of hospitals across the country compiled by the Health Directorate show that in 13 districts of Dhaka division (excluding Dhaka City), there are 1,096 government hospital beds and 46 ICU beds. There are no ICU beds in Manikganj, Shariatpur, Tangail, Narsingdi, Rajbari and Dhaka's Jinjira Upazila.
In 11 districts of Chittagong division, there are 1,098 beds and 34 ICU beds are ready for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. There are no ICU beds in Khagrachhari, Rangamati, Feni, Chandpur, Brahmanbaria, Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Laxmipur and Noakhali districts.
Accordingly, there are 360 beds for Covid-19 patients for 4 districts of Mymensingh division with only 6 ICU beds. There are no ICU beds in Netrokona, Jamalpur and Sherpur.
In Barishal division, there are 413 beds only for Covid-19 patients in its 6 districts. Of them, only 17 ICU beds are available. However, there are no ICU beds in Bhola, Jhalokati, Barguna, Patuakhali and Pirojpur districts of this division.
In Sylhet division, there are 346 beds, including 16 ICU beds, ready for Covid-19 patients in 4 districts. However, there are no ICU beds in Sunamganj, Moulvibazar and Habiganj districts.
In Rajshahi division, the number of beds ready for Covid-19 patients is 924, including 26 ICU beds. But there are no ICU beds in Natore, Sirajganj, Pabna, Joypurhat, Naogaon, and Chapainawabganj districts of this division.
In Khulna Division, there are 613 beds, including 16 ICU beds, ready for Covid-19 patients in 10 districts. There are no ICU beds ready in Bagerhat, Jhenaidah, Chuadanga, Kushtia, Meherpur, Jessore, Narail and Magura districts.
In Rangpur division, there are 622 beds, including 13 ICU beds, ready for Kovid-19 patients in 8 districts of Rangpur division. There are no ICU beds for Kovid-19 patients in Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Panchagarh, Thakurgaon, Nilphamari and Gaibandha districts of the department.
At the private level, there are 654 beds for corona patients, 21 ICUs and one dialysis facility. In other words, there are 3944 beds in Dhaka city, both public and private, 174 ICUs and 102 dialysis beds.