Till August 5, at least 2,526 doctors, 1,854 nurses, and 3,010 other healthcare professionals have been infected with Covid-19, while 71 doctors have died till August 6
Top Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) professionals and other health experts have termed the sudden Health Ministry decision to discontinue hotel accommodations for healthcare workers “non scientific,” which would cause new problems ahead.
The BMA said till August 5, some 7,390 healthcare professionals including 2,526 doctors, 1,854 nurses, and 3,010 other staff have been infected.
Among them, 71 doctors have died till Thursday afternoon, BMA confirmed.
However, the Bangladesh Doctors’ Forum (BDF) said 82 doctors have died from Covid-19 till now, while 12 others died with coronavirus-like symptoms.
The BMA – in a letter to the Health Ministry – following their latest circular on cancellation of accommodations, said it was corruption and the lack of coordination in the unruly Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) from the very beginning that caused a huge number of infections among health care professionals. Many died as well.
“It is a matter of great regret that whenever the healthcare system for Covid-19 management went in a comparatively right direction, a sudden, non-scientific decision from the ministry has created unrest among healthcare professionals,” the letter read.
The BMA, in their letter, claimed that such unrest would cause mistrust among doctors and patients.
The letter came following a circular, signed by DGHS Secretary Abdul Mannan published on July 29, that asked government doctors, nurses, and other health workers involved in Covid-19 treatment to be on duty for 15 days at a time.
After 15 days of working, they are to be home quarantined for the next 15 days or isolated at new government dormitories selected by the Health Ministry.
Earlier, health workers worked for seven days and then spent a 14-day quarantine at a hotel designated by the government.
After the circulation was published, a number of doctors termed it “very humiliating” and expressed their frustration and discontent with the new decisions.
They said not only would this policy demotivate them, but it would also be harmful for their family members as well.
BMA Secretary General Ehteshamul Huq Choudhury said such decisions which break an established system could create dissatisfaction and disgruntlement among doctors and health care professionals.
“Their [the ministry’s] irresponsible comments and non-scientific decisions will only demotivate them [healthcare professionals] ” he feared.
Why is it a non-scientific decision?
Dr Ehteshamul Huq said a decision that cannot ensure quarantine and safety for doctors should not be enforced. “If they are kept in such government dormitories they will have to use common washrooms.”
“Again, at home, most health care professionals in Bangladesh may not have separate washroom arrangements in their homes,” he said, adding: “They would have to use common washrooms at home that would put their families at risk.”
At present some 3,000 doctors are on duty at Covid-19 dedicated hospitals while more than 2,000 nurses and around 1,500 ancillary staff are working, he added.
“With this decision, they [health workers] would be risking their own lives, as well as the lives of more than 6,000 families. How can a decision that breaches the ‘quarantine method’ entirely and puts thousands of families at risk be a ‘scientific approach’?” he questioned.
“The ministry lacks technical persons but I bet they did not consult any of the technical advisory committees formed by the ministry and the DGHS,” he said.
The BMA secretary general said, in their guidelines, WHO says that healthcare professionals should work seven days and take 14 days quarantine leave. After that they could visit their family members for one week, as the work is highly demanding and stressful.
Dhaka Tribune could not ensure if the Health Ministry asked for any advice from the national committee but Prof Shah Monir Hossain of DGHS’s public health advisory committee confirmed that they were not consulted regarding the matter and the decision was taken entirely by the ministry.
Supporting Dr Ehteshamul, Prof Hossain said continuing duty for 14 days with PPEs would be very difficult. “It would have been better if they followed the previous routine.”
‘Healthcare professionals at risk’
Infectious disease expert and National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine (Nipsom) Professor, Be-Nazir Ahmed, said that from the very beginning leaders in Covid-19 management have disregarded suggestions from public health experts.
“For the safety of healthcare professionals, the triage system should be in place. There should be an Infection Prevention Control committee in every hospital,” he said.
If there were such a committee, they would monitor how doctors and healthcare professionals wear PPEs, how they are treating patients, and whether they observe any noticeable risks, etc, he said.
But as there are no such committees, health workers remain open to risks, the professor explained, adding that this was one of the reasons for the growing number of infections among doctors.