Lack of patients forces Bangladesh to halt COVID-19 services at 12 hospitals

  • Obaidur Masum, Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-09-17 03:40:54 BdST

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Newly appointed doctors and nurses check their new workplace, a temporary COVID-19 hospital with 2,000 beds at International Convention City Bashundhara in Dhaka on Sunday.

The government is halting COVID-19 services at 12 hospitals to cut costs with more than 78 percent of the beds in the facilities dedicated for coronavirus treatment remaining empty amid the outbreak.

As many as 11,165 beds out of 14,275 in the COVID-19 hospitals were without patient on Wednesday. The rate was a little over 68 percent by the end of June.

The Directorate General of Health Services in a letter dated Aug 27 told Health Secretary Md Abdul Mannan that the COVID-19 services at the 12 hospitals need to be discontinued as the number of patients in the facilities was dropping.

The hospitals include five in Dhaka, six in Chattogram and one in Sylhet.

They are Holy Family Red Crescent Hospital, Dhaka Mohanagar Hospital, Infectious Diseases Hospital, Lalkuthi Hospital and Bashundhara COVID-19 Hospital in Dhaka; BITIT, Holy Crescent Hospital, Railway Hospital, Bangabandhu Memorial Hospital, Bhatiari Field Hospital and Corona Isolation Centre in Chattogram; and MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital in Sylhet.

The government had cancelled the contract with Dhaka’s Holy Family Hospital while it has ordered an end to the services at Lalkuthi Hospital and Dhaka Mohanagar Hospital and partial closure of Bashundhara COVID-19 Hospital on Wednesday.

The government signed contracts with different hospitals for the treatment of COVID-19 patients after the outbreak began in Bangladesh in March.

Though the government is paying the cost of treatment in these facilities, the number of patients has been very low.

“The equipment and staffing in these hospitals have remained unused,” said Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, the director general of health services.

Citing the instance of Banshundhara Hospital, he said the facility with over 2,000 beds had only three patients in a day recently while the government has been spending Tk 7 million daily on its 150 doctors, equipment and utility services.

The DGHS will now act on the issue following the ministry’s instructions, he said.

“We will redistribute the manpower and equipment of these hospitals,” Prof Khurshid said.

“But we will need to keep some hospitals ready [for COVID-19 patients] because we don’t know what might happen in future. The government hospitals will continue the services,” he added.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the ministry was working on the issue, but it would take some time to halt services in all 12 hospitals because they still had some patients.

The ministry has instructed the government hospitals dedicated for coronavirus patients to gradually resume services for non-COVID-19 patients, he added.