Hospitals in 37 dists lack ICU facilities

20 June 2021

After Abdus Samad, 68, and his wife Husne Laila, 58, from Thakurgaon were diagnosed with COVID-19, Samad ended up in Thakurgaon General Hospital.
A sexagenarian with comorbidity, including diabetes, Samad required high flow oxygen, which is available in Rangpur.
But he had to stay back in Thakurgaon as no bed at the Intensive Care Unit was available in Rangpur with his oxygen saturation dropping below 90, a worrying level, for the past four days.
"He became quite feeble as he could not eat properly," said Samad's daughter Sharmin Samad. Also, he is not in a condition to travel to Dhaka for better treatment.
According to the government data, 47 among the 93 samples tested in Thakurgaon on Thursday came back positive, yielding a positivity rate of 50.53 percent.
Samad's case is not different to the others, with the districts bordering India have been seeing a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases for quite a few days amid worries over the spread of a highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Although the authorities decided to provide more general bed facilities, district hospitals are yet to have enough ICUs for the COVID-19 patients, are still unprepared to combat a COVID-19 surge more than a year after the pandemic began.
As many as 37 out of the 64 districts in Bangladesh have no ICU facilities for the treatment of COVID-19 patients, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.
 Among them, five are in Dhaka division, eight in Chattogram, six in Rangpur,  two in Sylhet, four in Barishal, four in Khulna, six in Rajshahi and two districts are in Mymensingh division.
A total of 2,420 ICU beds are available in the country with 1,218 of them in Dhaka Metropolitan and 59 in Chattogram Metropolitan. The rest are available in 25 districts.
The government considers hospital beds with high flow nasal cannula facility as equivalent to ICU beds. As many as 11 districts do not have nasal cannula facility.
Rajshahi division has only 46 ICU beds with 20 of them in Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.
All of the 20 beds were occupied as of Thursday morning. Among the patients in those beds, 12 tested positive for the coronavirus while the rest had symptoms of COVID-19.
The hospital recently doubled its ICU capacity to tackle the surge in coronavirus cases, but the efforts are far from sufficient.
As many as 70 patients were waiting for the ICU beds, said Brig Gen Shamim Yazdani, director of the hospital.
Once a patient's physical condition improves, they are quickly shifted to the general ward. A bed also falls vacant when the occupying patient dies, he said. The patients from waiting list are then called chronologically.
Every day, seven to 10 patients are admitted to the ICU, he said. "Accordingly, a patient with the serial No. 70 will have to wait for more than a week to get into the ICU."
Patients from Rajshahi, Chanpainawabganj, Natore, Naogaon, Joypurhat, Pabna, Sirajganj, Kushtia, Meherpur and Chuadanga come to Rajshashi Medical College Hospital seeking treatment.
Rangpur division has only 25 ICU beds, including 10 in a hospital dedicated for coronavirus patients and the rest in M Abdur Rahim Medical College Hospital in Dinajpur.
Only three of the ICU beds were vacant, according to government data.

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