COVID cases strain hospitals in Bangladesh border districts

  • Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-06-10 23:08:19 BdST

The 100-bed COVID dedicated hospital in Khulna is already stretched. New patients are lying on makeshift bedrolls on the floor. As the caseload grows, so does the need for doctors, nurses and other hospital staff. A manpower crisis looms.

Similar scenes play out at government hospitals in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Kushtia. The caseload rises by leaps and bounds. Doctors worry that if this continues there will soon be a critical shortage of oxygen.

PATIENT RUSH IN KHULNA

The number of cases and deaths is on the rise in Khulna, says Khulna Correspondent Shuvro Sachin. Between Jun 3 and Jun 7, over 1,000 cases of COVID were detected in the division. The Khulna Corona Dedicated Hospital announced on Thursday it would not be admitting any new patients until beds were available.

As of Jun 7, there were a total of 36,955 coronavirus cases in the 10 districts of the division, Dr Rashida Sultana, a director of the Directorate General of Health Services for Khulna Division, said on Wednesday.

Ten people died of the disease between 6 am on Tuesday and 6 am on Wednesday, she said. Another 557 tested positive for coronavirus, the most in the division since the start of the pandemic.

The number of cases and deaths has risen since Eid-ul-Fitr, according to DGHS data. The first eight days of June saw 2,664 new cases, or an average of 333 a day. Thirty-five people also died in that period. The previous eight-day period -- May 24-31 -- saw 1,222 new cases, or an average of 153 a day.

People are at greater risk of catching the delta variant of the virus which is devastating India because six of its districts share a 284 km-long border with India.

Bangladesh closed the border with India on Apr 26 to stop the spread of the variant. But many people have entered Bangladesh from India through the Benapole Land Port in Jashore since. Many have crossed the border into India illegally or are entering Bangladesh through illegal means in order to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

A 24-hour count shows that 130 patients were admitted to the Corona Dedicated Hospital in Khulna as of Wednesday, said hospital spokesman Mehedi Newaz, and 20 were in the ICU.

Most of the patients currently admitted to Khulna Medical College and Hospital have severe symptoms, said RMO Dr Suhash Ranjan Halder.

Most of the patients there are suffering from low oxygen. Though only 100 beds are available, 129 patients have been admitted to the hospital. Most of them were trying to recover from the disease at home and only came to hospital when their oxygen levels fell.

The hospital has relatively limited logistic support, Dr Halder said. The rush of patients shows the need for another coronavirus unit and more doctors and nurses, he said.

He fears it will be difficult to cope with the pandemic otherwise.

But Dr Rashida Sultana of DGHS says the division has sufficient medical facilities to cope with the situation. The division has 49 ICU beds and 304 high-flow nasal cannulas.

The lack of awareness and breach of health regulations is causing the Khulna pandemic situation to deteriorate, said Khulna Civil Surgeon Niaz Mohammad. “The situation will not improve until people follow health protocols.”

DOCTORS UNPREPARED, PATIENTS UNSATISFIED

The number of coronavirus cases in the district has increased tenfold in the past 20 days. The positivity rate for tests is 67 percent, an alarming statistic, said the local DGHS.

“It will be very hard to cope with the situation if this continues,” said Kushtia Medical College Hospital RMO Dr Tapas Kumar Sarkar.  

Kushtia General Hospital has 250 beds for COVID patients and another 54 patients can be kept in isolation at the Medical Assistant Training School dormitory, but the hospital is already stretched beyond capacity, he said. Some patients had to lie on the floor.

The hospital also has a central oxygen supply with a capacity of about 6,000 litres that can provide every 10 patients with an oxygen supply for up to seven days. But the hospital does not have an ICU and so it is working on increasing its oxygen capacity. Work on storing about 20,000 litres of oxygen centrally is nearly finished. Once complete, Tapas hopes it will ensure oxygen supply for all patients.

Many COVID patients at the hospital say they are not receiving the proper care and some say they are dissatisfied.

Sajni Khatun, whose husband Ahad Ali is under the hospital’s care, said there were times she called doctors or nurses because her husband was in great pain, but did not get a response.

“I must have called them a hundred times and they took over an hour to come,” she said. “Even then they wouldn’t get close to my husband and would only speak while standing at a distance.”

“My husband is very weak. He cannot speak loudly, so they can’t hear him. When he gets oxygen, he feels a bit better, but it becomes difficult when it runs out.”

They give some medicine, but others have to be bought from outside the hospital, she said.

“The number of patients exceeded our capacity long ago,” said RMO Tapas. “We are trying to do what we can with limited resources. This means we have some limitations and we make a few mistakes.”

CHUADANGA OVERWHELMED

The number of cases in Chuadanga is also on the rise as the positivity rate reaches 20 percent, according to bdnews24.com’s Chuadanga correspondent.

Most of the afflicted are still under quarantine at home, but the number of hospitalisations is on the rise. But, due to the limited capacity of hospitals in the area, serious cases are sent to Dhaka, Rajshahi or another larger district.

In the past seven days, 117 people have tested positive, said Dr Awliar Rahman, medical officer of Chuadanga Civil Surgeon’s Office.

The district has 195 beds for COVID patients, but there are no ICUs, CCUs or SDUs. They also have 54 large oxygen cylinders and 145 smaller ones. The central oxygen supply was 5,644 cubic litres as of Wednesday. There are 30 doctors who care for COVID patients at four government hospitals and 10 more at private hospitals.

Dr Rahman is unsure how long oxygen will last, saying it would depend on the needs of patients. It is risky to keep any patients with a medical emergency in the district due to the lack of ICU beds. If a patient’s health deteriorates, they are transferred elsewhere.

Damurhuda Upazila has seen a recent surge in COVID cases.

One of the problems was a blatant breach of COVID-19 rules at a hair processing plant in Damurhuda, according to Chuadanga Deputy Commissioner Nazrul Islam. The plant employed nearly 100,000 men and women and was not following health protocols, he said. There have been claims that hair is being brought in from India through illegal means. As cases rose, strict restrictions on movement have been imposed on 16 border villages.

RAJSHAHI MEDICAL PAST CAPACITY

The number of people dying at the Rajshahi Medical College Hospital’s coronavirus unit is worrying doctors and the relatives of patients.

Eighty people have died in the eight-day period from 6 am on Jun 1 to 6 am on Jun 9 at the hospital, says RMCH Deputy Director Saiful Ferdous. Forty-nine of them tested positive for COVID, while the rest showed symptoms that matched the disease.

As of Wednesday morning, 277 patients were being treated at the hospital, 17 of whom were in the ICU.

Until Monday the hospital had only 135 beds in the coronavirus unit, but the rush of patients forced them to add another ward, increasing the number of beds to 264. The extra 13 patients are lying on the floor. About 35 people were admitted to the COVID unit in the 24 hours, while 17 were released after recovering.

CHAPAINAWABGANJ HOSPITALS FULL

The number of new cases is on the rise in Chapainawabganj, according to bdnews24.com’s local correspondent. The district has identified 1,293 cases, said Civil Surgeon Dr Zahid Nazrul Chowdhury.

The Specialised Sadar Hospital is the only place in the district with COVID beds and has a capacity of 250. Currently, 52 COVID patients are receiving care at the hospital.

Though facility does not have an ICU, it does have high-flow nasal cannulas and other facilities. It also has 5,100 litres of oxygen and has the capacity to refill them. They also have 36 large cylinders in reserve. Efforts are underway to increase the number of beds at the hospitals as cases continue to tick up.

[With assistance from reporters in Khulna, Chuadanga, Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj]