Arun Bikash Dey
After 32-year-old Zaker Hossain from Cox’s Bazar tested Covid-19 positive about a week ago, he was admitted to a private hospital in Chattogram.
As his health condition deteriorated on Friday, doctors advised the family to shift him to an intensive care unit (ICU) elsewhere. The four ICU beds for Covid-19 patients at the private hospital were all occupied.
Zaker’s younger brother, Mohammad Sakib called about 15 other private hospitals in the port city but none had an empty ICU bed for Covid-19 patients.
He found the same situation in the port city’s two public hospitals — Chattogram General Hospital (CGH) and Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH), Sakib told this correspondent yesterday afternoon.
“Now I don’t know what will happen to my brother,” Sakib said as his brother continued to fight for his life.
“We were advised to rush my brother to Dhaka but I don’t know whether his health condition would allow this long [more than six hours by road] journey,” he added.
Like Zaker, many critical Covid-19 patients in Chattogram are suffering due to the lack of ICU support while some have died.
Septuagenarian physician Nurul Haque, known as the doctor of the poor in Chattogram’s Hathazari upazila, died on Thursday as he could not be given ICU support. Infected with Covid-19, he had been undergoing treatment at CMCH since Tuesday.
Kamal Uddin, vice president of BNP’s Chattogram city unit, also met the same fate on June 10 midnight. When he started having breathing problems, the private hospital he was in couldn’t provide an empty ICU bed. His family also failed to find one in other hospitals in the port city.
Around two percent of all Covid-19 patients may require ICU support at one stage, said Abur Rob, senior consultant, medicine, at CGH. He is also the focal person for coronavirus treatment at CGH.
Based on the number of patients still undergoing treatment in hospitals and at homes in Chattogram, it can be said that around 60 of them may require ICU support any time.
Currently, only two public hospitals in the district have ICU beds dedicated for Covid-19 patients — 10 in CGH and seven in CMCH, said Chattogram’s Civil Surgeon Sheikh Fazle Rabbi.
Besides, Holy Crescent Hospital, a private hospital brought under CGH and dedicated for Covid-19 patients, has a 10-bed ICU, not yet operational due to the lack of trained manpower, said sources.
The civil surgeon said private hospitals in the port city dedicated 25 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients.
Asked about the coronavirus situation yesterday, he said a total of 182 doctors, over 30 nurses and 20 other health workers have been infected so far in the district. Among the infected doctors, six passed away.
As of Saturday, 6,288 patients tested coronavirus positive in Chattogram district. Of them, 141 patients have died, 640 patients were released from hospitals and 2,368 patients recovered at home.
Currently, 366 patients are admitted at hospitals and 2,773 are recovering at home.
Liakat Ali, general secretary of Private Hospitals Owners Association, Chattogram explained that some ICU beds have to be kept for patients with other illnesses.
He said many clinics cannot run ICUs due to manpower crisis. Moreover, many doctors have tested Covid-19 positive while working in ICUs.
Mahfuzur Rahman, convenor of Public Health Rights Protection Committee, Chattogram, said the government has allocated Tk 10,000 crore for the health sector in the recent budget.
From that allocation, Tk 500 crore may be expended to set up more 500 ICU beds in Chattogram division.
“Setting up ICU beds is a crying need to save lives. The government has no scope to neglect the issue,” he said.
Mostafa Khaled, acting director of Directorate General of Health Services, Chattogram division, said, “Setting up an ICU is very technical and time consuming. Moreover, there is a lack of trained manpower all over the country.”
He said the government has decided to set up a five-bed ICU in each of all district hospitals.
“It is true that we need many more ICU beds at present in Chattogram but providing high-flow oxygen support is much more important.”
Hospitals need central oxygen supply systems for providing high flow-oxygen support. It cannot be given from oxygen cylinders, he said.
Though CMCH has the system, the installation work at CGH is currently underway, the acting director said on Friday.
However, many private hospitals in the port city do not have such facilities.
Giving the picture on ICU facilities in public hospitals of Chattogram division, Mostafa said, CMCH has 17 ICU beds, of which seven are for Covid-19 patients. All the 10 ICU beds at Cumilla Medical College Hospital are for coronavirus patients.
Besides, 10 ICU beds have been installed in Feni General Hospital, all for Covi-19 patients. But this ICU facility is yet not operational due to lack of trained manpower.