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Coronavirus battle

Specialised hospitals ill-prepared

JUBAIR HASAN and ADNAN HOSSAIN BHUIYAN | March 18, 2020 00:00:00

A room of the National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital (NIDCH) has been turned into isolation unit for COVID-19 patients — FE photo

People with diabetic, cardiovascular, lung and renal complications are most vulnerable to COVID-19, but specialised public hospitals treating them lack minimum preparations to fight such viral infections.

According to physicians and patients, poor preparedness in the key healthcare centres multiplies the risk of the deadly virus among caregivers and patients.

The FE found such a horrifying situation at several major infirmaries that deal with diabetic, cardiovascular, lung and renal diseases.

Doctors and others in these facilities are at risk while treating patients having COVID-19 syndromes as they are not equipped to test patients for coronavirus.

Even medical staff do not have any protective gear.

Surprisingly, many hospitals do not have any alternative passage and separate treatment facilities to deal with such contagious diseases.

A Tuesday visit to the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorder (BIRDEM) revealed physicians providing emergency service distancing them with a red ribbon.

Talking to the FE, on-duty doctors, who preferred to remain unnamed, said they do not know who is suffering from what.

"And we don't have necessary equipment to cope with anyone suffering from the viral infection. So, we try to maintain a distance at the time of service delivery."

When asked, BIRDEM's hospital services division joint director Dr Nazimul Islam said the diabetics with corona syndromes might come here for treatment, which could largely spread the infection.

"There are many such vulnerable patients having heart, kidney and lung complications and their immune system is too weak. If it spreads, it will be dangerous."

Mr Islam said they have recently received some corona cases and immediately informed the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research of them.

"We don't have testing kits, enough gowns and masks. Just think if a doctor or a nurse is infected, it will take some time for exposure of the syndromes."

"By the time, he or she serves some patients. That means, more people will be infected," he told the FE.

Mr Islam said they have formed a committee to look into the matter. "I think the government should set up more points at some locations for testing the disease."

Things are almost same at the National Heart Foundation (NHF), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH) and National Institute of Kidney Disease and Urology.

Prof Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of epidemiology and research department at the NHF, said the hospital lacks a COVID-19 testing facility for coronavirus cases.

It has 25 intensive care units (ICUs), coronary care units (CCUs), and paediatric intensive care unit to treat critical patients, he added.

"We're worried that we don't have necessary materials to check patients having viral syndromes. What will happen if heart patients having COVID-19 syndromes come to the institute?" he questioned.

The 250-bed cardiovascular institute in the capital's Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area also has not taken any preparations to accommodate COVID-19 patients.

Seeking anonymity, an IDH physician said the health facility, designated for communicable diseases only, has taken no tangible measures to treat corona cases.

"We (physicians and staff members) always pray so that no such patients come here. Otherwise, it will be tough for us to deal with them."

The National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital (NIDCH), the largest of its kind, has a total of 670 beds-600 for chest diseases and 70 for asthma.

There, the FE found that three rooms (15, 16 and a special paying bed at ward-13 for male TB patients) have been designated as a coronavirus isolation unit.

However, the rooms are currently locked as no infected patient has so far been admitted to the hospital.

On preparedness for COVID-19 at NIDCH, Associate Prof Dr Md Hasanur Rashid of respiratory medicine at the outdoor said, "The hospital authorities have taken primary preparations to treat COVID-19 patients."

Health ministry nominated NIDCH as one of the four government hospitals to treat COVID-19, but it lacks basic preparedness to treat a large number of infected patients.

The recent woeful situation at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) could be an example of such poor preparedness at public hospitals.

On March 16, a young returnee from Canada came to the DMCH with gastrointestinal complications, but doctors and staff did not treat her fearing COVID-19.

The result was obvious: the undergraduate student died before their eyes.

According to the statistics of worldometer.info on coronavirus, an estimated 50-per cent overall deaths were reported with chronic diseases.

The highest number of corona-infected deaths was recorded for people having cardiovascular disease (13.2 per cent), diabetes (9.2 per cent), hypertension (8.4 per cent), respiratory disease (8.0 per cent) and cancer (7.5 per cent).

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