Amid the growing Covid-19 cases, health experts fear that Bangladesh’s frontier districts await a serious healthcare crisis as most hospitals and health complexes there are ill-equipped to cope with any worsening situation.
They also voiced frustration as local administrations in different frontier districts are “buying time” in enforcing strict lockdowns and halting the inter-district transport services to control the virus locally.They said the government should focus on preventing the spread of the virus transmission to other areas from the frontier ones and enhancing the number of hospital beds, treatment facilities, equipment, and ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen, high-flow nasal cannula and necessary medicines at hospitals and upazila health complexes in the bordering areas witnessing a surge in the virus infection rate.
Covid cases are growing alarmingly in Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi, Satkhira, Khulna, Kushtia, Jashore, Naogaon and Natore since the last week of May apparently for the prevalence of the highly transmissible Indian variant.
According to a research conducted in India, one person carrying 1.617 known as the Indian variant, can infect about 406 people in just one month.
Though the government has already empowered local administrations to enforce lockdowns in the virus-affected districts, only Chapainawabganj has been put under lockdown so far.
Benapole land port is located in the district through which 60 to 70 passengers enter the country every day on average from India and the 'Indian variant' has already been found in some returnees from India.The number of Covid patients is growing in the district alarmingly with around 24 percent infection rate, according to official sources.
There is a health complex in Navaran upazila, 14 km away from the land port, but it has neither any Covid unit nor adequate facilities to deal with Covid patients. Covid patients are being treated at the 250-bed Jashore General Hospital, but it has no central oxygen system. Cylinders are being used to give oxygen support to Covid patients.
Though the movement of passengers remained halted through Bhomra Land Port here, the virus infection rate in the district is around 30 percent. The district has only 35 only isolation beds and 88 general beds for the treatment of Corona patients, officials here said.
Satkhira Medical College Hospital has a central oxygen supply system but Sadar Hospital has no such facility. The district has eight ICU beds and 38 high-flow nasal cannulas for the treatment of corona patients.
As the district has a 45-km border with India, it is witnessing a high Covid positivity rate. The average positivity rate in the districts over the last 10 days is around 40 percent. There are 115 isolation beds.
Among the corona patients being identified in the district, the critically ill ones are being given round-the-clock oxygen support at Kushtia General Hospital as it has a central oxygen system. However, there is no ICU there. Although there are 12 high-flow nasal cannulas, three of them have got damaged, official sources said.
The Covid situation is turning critical in the district as 67 out 197 people tested positive for the virus on Tuesday with 34.1 percent infection rate.
There are a total of 210 beds, including 30 in Sadar Hospital and 180 in Upazila Health Complexes, for the treatment of Corona patients. But there are no functional ICU beds, central oxygen supply system, and RT-PCR laboratory in the district, according to officials.
Though the district has been put under strict lockdown, the infection rate is said to be over 25 percent there.
There are only 20 beds in the district Sadar Hospital for Covid patients, but it lacks the necessary treatment facilities and sufficient manpower. However, there is no intensive care unit at the hospital while the upazila health complexes do not have any facility to give treatment to the Covid patients, forcing many of them to go to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital, official sources said.
The positivity rate in the district keeps increasing as 198 people tested positive for the virus in the district on Tuesday.
Rajshahi Medical College Hospital is facing difficulties to deal with the growing number of Covid patients as people from the adjoining districts are coming to the hospital for treatment. The hospital has 217 general beds 15 ICU beds and central oxygen system to provide the Covid patients treatment.
Though there are around 100 beds for corona patients at upazila health complexes in the district, those are ill-equipped to ensure proper treatment, according to officials.
Though the district is witnessing nearly 30 percent positivity rate, there is no RT-PCR lab for Covid test in the district, officials said.
They said Sadar Hospital has only 31 beds to treat the Covid patients. The hospital has no ICU bed while it has only 16 oxygen cylinders. The upazila health complexes are not well-equipped to treat Covid patients.
Nazmul Islam, the spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said Covid infection rates in the bordering districts are growing and they have taken necessary measures to ensure treatment at both the district-level and medical college hospitals in the bordering areas.
He suggested people to go to district hospitals in those districts as most upazila complexes lack necessary facilities to deal with Covid patients.
Talking to journalists, Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to WHO South-East Asia region, said the government should take immediate steps to equip the frontier district hospitals and upazila health complexes with necessary facilities and oxygen support as the Covid situation is turning worse there with the rise in positivity rate.
“All the upazila hospitals in the frontier districts must have necessary oxygen support, high-flow nasal cannula, oxygen masks, necessary medicines and other equipment. The number of ICU beds and ventilators will have to be increased in the district hospitals. Or else, a serious healthcare crisis will be created there and the fatality rate will go up and we’ll lose control on the Covid situation,” he warned.
Noted virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, also a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee, said they have advised the government to enforce lockdowns in the eight bordering districts to control the virus transmission, but it is not still implemented in seven districts.
“The number of infections is now growing in the frontier districts as we’re failing to tackle the transmission. Most of our hospitals in the frontier districts lack adequate facilities to deal with deteriorating Covid situation. So, we’ll have to intensify the preventive measures as well as preparing the hospitals to tackle the growing number of patients,” he said.