• Saturday, Aug 15, 2020
  • Last Update : 10:35 am

Number of ICU beds insufficient to combat Covid-19 pandemic

  • Published at 01:12 am March 21st, 2020
icu
File photo of a ICU unit at a Hospital Dhaka Tribune

According to experts, if Bangladesh is not fully prepared to fight the threat imposed by this deadly virus, things might become very alarming in the near future

The number of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds is insufficient compared to the population of the country for accommodating patients amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Covid-19, a new strain of coronavirus, has so far led to the deaths of over 10,000 people in more than 180 countries including one from Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh authorities till on Friday had detected altogether 20 Covid-19 patients and confirmed that the virus had started transmitting locally.

According to experts, if Bangladesh is not fully prepared to fight the threat imposed by this deadly virus, things might become very alarming in the near future. 

They said that those infected with the virus show neurological and respiratory complications, which are life threatening. And for treating such patients, ICU is a must to ensure close monitoring and medication.

In line with international standards a 100-bed hospital should have at least five ICUs. 

In reality, hospitals in Bangladesh have only 1,169 ICU beds (432 govt, 737 private) in total against a population of 161,356,039 people. 

Moreover, when it comes to the number of general beds, the country has only 141,903, which translates to only eight (8.7) beds for every 10,000 Bangladeshis.

On the other hand, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the US has 28 hospital beds for 10,000 people, China has 43, South Korea has 123, and Italy has 32 general hospital bed per 10,000 people. All these countries have reported coronavirus infections. 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh also lags behind in the ratio between patients, and their doctors and nurses, when compared to other neighboring countries.

The country has only eight (8.5) doctors, nurses, and midwives for every 10,000 citizenswhereasthe current doctor-patient ratio in Bangladesh is only 5.26,placing the country at the second spot from the bottom, among the South Asian countries, according to World Health Organization(WHO) data.

However, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) Director Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora informed the media that 150 ICUs had been readied in Dhaka and more wouldbe in place across Bangladesh for coronavirus patients.

But the question remains: does the country have a sufficient number of ICUs to treat, if necessary, large numbers of Covid-19 patients? 

When contacted, Dr MM Aktaruzzaman, senior scientific officer of IEDCR, said, “The number of ICU beds here is very low while demand is set to rise drastically due to the coronavirus epidemic in the coming days.”

Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Dr Ayesha Akter, assistant director of DGHS Health Emergency Operation Centre and Control Room, hoped that the government would increase ICU facilities considering the current situation.

Earlier on January 6, Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque had said that the number of ICU beds would be doubled at all public hospitals to markMujib Year.

6 hospitals with isolation units in Dhaka

The Health Services Division has provided six hospitals in Dhaka with dedicated isolation units to house and treat Covid-19 patients. 

These six hospitals -- Bangladesh Railway Hospital in Kamalapur, Mahanagar General Hospital in Nayabazar, BAVS Maternity Hospital in Mirpur, Kamrangirchar 31-bed Hospital, Aminbazar 20-bed Hospital, and Jinjira 20-bed Hospital -- on an average have only five to 10 ICUs. 

According to DGHSdata, of a total of 1,169 ICU beds in the country, 816 (govt, private combined) are in Dhaka division. 

Furthermore, Bangladesh only has 1,034 Coronary Care Unit (CCU) beds, which is significantly disproportionate to its population.

According to IEDCR, a total of 400 beds at six hospitals in Dhaka, 150 beds in two Chittagong hospitals, 200 beds in two Sylhet hospitals, 400 beds in two Barisal hospitals and 200 beds in two Rangpur hospitals have been prepared to keep coronavirus patients in isolation.

Earlier, on Thursday the government handed over the Ijtema grounds to Bangladesh Army to build facilities to isolate or quarantine Covid-19 patients.

The army will also take care of the overseas returnees in the two quarantine centres - Ashkona Hajj Camp adjacent to HSIA and Rajuk Apartment Project at Diabari, Uttara Sector 18 - set up in Dhaka to ensure their proper quarantine.

Doctors, nurses need more protection when operating 

Dr Mujibur Rahman, head of the department of medicine at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), said that despite multiple initiatives taken by the government to fight this epidemic, the country needs more precautionary measures to avoid further deterioration of the current situation.

“One of the biggest concerns that we are facing right now is that the doctors, nurses and other medical staff members who are dealing with coronavirus patients need more and proper protection so that they themselves don’t get infected. We have to stop this deadly virus from spreading anymore. 

“If the infection rate goes up in the upcoming days then we will need more ICUs to accommodate patients,” he added.

Meanwhile, experts have suggested that the ICUs which will have coronavirus infected people need to be completely “isolated” so that the virus cannot infect others during treatment. 

Experts also said that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic would be much more manageable if the hospital system of the country performed properly.

Additional reporting by Aditto Ahsan Bari

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