The crisis of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in hospitals has deepened across the country, particularly those in bordering districts, with the deadly surge in coronavirus infections.
“The bed occupancy by Covid-19 patients has already crossed the existing capacity in many hospitals across the country, including Khulna and Rajshahi districts. We’ve already asked the hospitals to turn general beds into Covid-19 ones, if necessary,” Prof Dr Robed Amin, spokesperson for the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.
The number of Covid-19 patients has been increasing alarmingly across the country, including Dhaka and bordering districts, for the last few weeks.
The government hospitals in around 10 bordering districts are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and a serious crisis of general and ICU beds has been created there.
Bangladesh reported highest 164 deaths and record 9,964 infections from coronavirus over the last 24 hours till Monday morning.
Of the 164 deaths, 55 were logged in Khulna division while 40 in Dhaka, 18 in Chattogram, 16 in Rajshahi, nine in Barishal, 16 in Rangpur, two in Mymensingh and eight in Sylhet division. Of the new infections, 4,250 were registered in Dhaka division while 389 in Mymensingh, 1,367 in Chattogram, 1,123 in Rajshahi, 676 in Rangpur, 1,470 in Khulna, 436 in Barishal and 253 in Sylhet division.
According to the DGHS report available on July 5, there are 3,807 general and 384 ICU beds in government hospitals dedicated for Covid-19 patients in Dhaka city. Of them, 1,745 general and 103 ICU beds remained vacant till Monday morning.
In Chattogram city, there are 450 general and 33 ICU beds in public hospitals. Of them, 169 general and 13 ICU beds remained vacant.
Outside Dhaka city, there are 14,588 general and 1,203 ICU beds in government hospitals across the country. Of them, 6,597 general and 370 ICU beds were lying vacant till Monday morning, it said.
Sources in hospitals in Khulna and Rajshahi divisions said in many cases, critical patients are shifted to hospitals in divisional headquarters for intensive care from district and upazila level but many patients often die due to delayed treatment and lack of emergency intensive care.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Brigadier General Md Shameem Yazdany, director of Rajshahi Medical College Hospital (RMCH), said the hospital is flooded with Covid-19 patients as it is the only government hospital in the district.
Some 495 Covid-19 patients were admitted to the hospital as of Monday against 435 general and 20 ICU beds, the hospital sources said.
Dr Niaz Mohammad, civil surgeon of Khulna, said a Covid-19 unit has been opened at Shaheed Sheikh Abu Naser Specialized Hospital as the number of patients has increased in the region with Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH) and Khulna General Hospital overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.
He said there will be a total of 200 general and 20 ICU beds in KMCH, 70 general and 10 ICU beds at Sheikh Abu Naser Hospital and 45 general beds at Khulna General Hospital for Covid-19 patients.
Talking to the Daily Sun, Dr Md Robiul Hassan, KMCH director, said, “All the general and ICU beds dedicated for Covid-19 patients have been occupied as the number of patients has been increasing day by day.”
He said sometimes it becomes difficult for them to save many Covid-19 patients as many are taken to the hospital from villages after a delay while some in a serious condition.
Dr Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told the Daily Sun, “The number of Covid-19 patients has been increasing at such a rate that many patients may die for lack of proper treatment facilities, including intensive care and delayed treatment.”
He said the government should increase treatment facilities, including setting up ICU beds in all district hospitals immediately, in a bid to ensure proper treatment for serious patients.
Nazrul Islam, also former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), lamented that though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in June last year had given a directive to set up ICU beds in all district hospitals, it has not yet been implemented.
However, DGHS sources said there is no ICU bed for Covid-19 patients in six districts of Dhaka division, nine districts of Chattogram, seven districts of Rangpur, two districts of Sylhet and Mymensingh each, four districts of Barishal and four districts of Khulna and seven districts of Rajshahi.
Hospital authorities in a number of districts are facing challenges as they cannot ensure accommodation for severe Covid-19 patients due to the crisis of both general and ICU beds.
“If the number of Covid-19 patients increases at this current rate for 7-8 days, it’ll be challenging for us to accommodate a large number of patients,” the RMCH director told the Daily Sun on Monday.
Sources at several hospital sources said they are also facing a shortage of necessary logistics and manpower, including oxygen, to ensure proper treatment for the increased number of Covid-19 patients.
“We’ve received reports of the deaths of some patients due to the oxygen shortage in some hospitals. A committee has been formed to investigate the matter. We have no oxygen shortage at this moment,” Dr Md Nazmul Islam, a spokesperson for the DGHS, said on Sunday.
At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on June 2 last year, the prime minister directed for setting up ICU units in all the district hospitals. Two projects were approved in the meeting as well.
One of the two projects, Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness, was designed to upgrade the health system enabling the health workers to diagnose Covid-19 and testing.