As the coronavirus runs rampant across Bangladesh, patients, often with their lives at stake, are scrambling from one hospital to the next in search of vacant beds.
However, the government has not been able to issue updates on the availability of beds in hospitals dedicated to the treatment of Covid-19 due to the lack of up-to-date information.
The information provided by the health directorate in its daily press releases on the status of beds is usually based on data from a 'couple of days prior'.
This information is collected over the phone, whereby information and communication technology can potentially be used to gather real-time data from hospitals and relay it to the public, bdnews24.com reports.
The directorate's Integrated Control Centre calculates the number of beds in hospitals until 12 noon every day, the number of patients admitted and vacant beds.
In its statement on Friday, the health directorate said that 430 out of 3,622 general beds and 17 out of 305 ICU beds at 19 public and private hospitals were vacant.
Based on the government data, some of the hospitals were contacted where beds were said to be available but that did not turn out to be the case.
According to the health directorate, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University had 180 general beds in its coronavirus unit, of which only four were empty.
Describing the information as "misleading", BSMMU director Brig Gen Zulfiquer Ahmed Amin said, "They tallied our ICU beds at 14. But we have 20 beds here and another 50 beds have been added to our fever clinic.”
Although the health directorate's data showed that only four ordinary beds were available at the hospital, Zulfiquer said, "There are no empty beds in the Covid unit here."
The Covid unit of Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital had five out of 190 general beds and four out of 10 ICU beds vacant, the health directorate said.
The director of the hospital, Dr Khalilur Rahman, said, “Currently, there isn't any vacant ICU bed. This is old news. We had a few empty seats the day before yesterday."
"No beds have been vacant since yesterday and no general beds are empty. There are extra patients."
Bangladesh on Friday logged 7,462 new cases of the coronavirus in a day, taking the tally to 673,594. The death toll climbed by 63 in the 24 hours to 8 am Friday to 9,584, according to data released by the government.
Patients suffering complications from the coronavirus are dying in hospitals after their condition deteriorated due to a lack of timely treatment, according to several hospital officials.
According to the health directorate, the privately run Evercare Hospital in the capital has nine available ordinary beds out of 58. Similarly, only 10 of its 21 ICU beds are reportedly vacant.
However, the authorities of Evercare Hospital had maintained that there would be no empty beds in the hospital after March 19 following a sharp upturn in coronavirus infections.
Asked how many beds were available at Evercare Hospital from Thursday to Friday noon, Senior General Manager Dr Arif Mahmud said, “There is no empty ICU or general bed. I don't understand how they (the health directorate) are giving this information.”
"We have 12 ICU and 9 HDU beds here. Not a single one is empty. Evercare Hospital has 80 beds for Covid patients, not 58. All of them are occupied by patients."
"I even had to turn away a friend's mother along with a lot of patients today."
The government information regarding the status of beds at the Square Hospital is also disputed by its authorities. According to the health directorate's data, 11 out of 65 general beds and four out of 19 ICU beds were vacant at Square Hospital.
However, Yusuf Siddique, chief executive officer of Square Hospital, said on Friday that the information was incorrect.
"There are 17 dedicated ICU beds for Covid patients along with 75 ordinary beds. At one time, there were 100 beds but the number was brought down when there was a drop in coronavirus infections. The number of beds in the coronavirus unit has been raised again following the uptick in cases."
“There is no empty general or ICU bed in this unit. I don't understand how they count the empty beds. I have no bed available here at the moment. Currently, 5-6 requests are pending. Beds are filled as soon as they fall vacant."
Addressing the discrepancy in the data about the empty hospital beds, Additional Director General of the DGHS Meerjady Sabrina Flora said the listing was based on the information provided by the hospitals when called by the health directorate. Patients may be admitted at a later point.
"The information is collected by our control room. To prepare the report, they call and find out how many beds are available. It's very unlikely that an ICU bed will be empty at this time. Maybe they write it down when it's empty, only for it to be filled up later.”