Despite repeated warnings from the government, patients are still being denied treatment in hospitals in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. There are some cases of deaths, too, due to denied admission to the capital's so-called renowned hospitals. Sadly -- and outrageously -- patients who died, some of them elderly, sought treatment for kidney and cardiac ailments with no covid symptoms. The hospitals refused them saying they needed covid-negative certificate in the first place before getting attention.
A shocking case that went viral in the social media recently reveals the extremely bizarre and near-spiteful manner in which hospitals refused to attend an elderly patient, a senior civil servant. His daughter, a physician herself, shuttled from one hospital to another -- all of the renowned variety -- seeking medical help for him who, a cardiac patient for a while, was in dire need of oxygen support. The physician daughter who had full knowledge of her father's medical history, carried all papers in support of his ailment but failed to get him admitted to any of the nearly half a dozen hospitals she rushed to. Each of the hospitals, she tells in her heartrending facebook post, wanted non-Covit certificate which she was not in a position to produce readily as it would have taken more than 24 hours to get test result. Finally, when she somehow managed to get a seat for him in the general ward of a hospital, it was already late. He died a heartless death. One only hopes and wishes the daughter well so she overcomes her trauma of not being able to admit her father to any hospital for oxygen support -- being a doctor herself.
There were many such cases -- not all made it to public view. There is a definite lacuna in the system. The argument of the hospitals that they need non-Covid certificate to attend any patient, even a seriously ill patient needing emergency care, cannot be brushed off as the fear of contamination, in case the patient is Covid-positive, may endanger the lives of other patients. The wrong, to start with, is one of government's own making when months ago with traces of Covid infection in the country, the authorities confined the test regime to just one state agency-- the IEDCR (Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research). Although the test facilities were expanded later, still to a limited number of hospitals, the functioning is far from smooth with long lines of people waiting without the least semblance of required physical distance. Chances are high that many who are not infected but want tests done will get infected simply because of the callow and inefficient handling of the situation.
The situation now is really terrible for people with serious ailments who need to visit hospitals for urgent help. Blaming the hospitals is easy given the humanitarian approach everyone expects from them, but in reality, it is the utter mismanagement and lack of planned programming of the country's health administration that has rendered the situation so unspeakably dismal. It is well known that emergency wards of all hospitals are supposed to be open for any urgent medical help patients need. Now, if the attending physicians of emergency wards refuse to attend patients without non-Covid certificates, what is for them to do but languish in pain and misery, and if hard luck would have it, die.
This is not to say that all hospitals should have been equipped with Covid test facilities. But the major hospitals should have the facilities -- allowed by the government to run tests in case they feared the arriving patients could be Covid-suspects.
Health minister Zahid Maleque said that such incidents were disappointing and they (the authorities) had been noticing such incidents of late. But feeling disappointed does not help. The health ministry issued a warning in the last week of March that no government or private hospital could refuse to provide treatment to any patient from now on. Later, on April 4, the health minister said that the government would take stern actions, including cancelling licences, if private hospitals and clinics denied treatment to patients even with Covid symptoms. All smoke, no fire. How can the health ministry force hospitals that have no test facility for Covid? Bangladesh Medical Association President Mostafa Jalal Mohiuddin told a local daily the other day that they had been noticing such incidents recently. 'No patient should be left uncared for and unattended, but the real situation is suggesting the opposite, which is alarming and disappointing. We would talk to the health minister and medical authorities to address the issues,' he said.
Clearly, things are as bad as they were weeks back. No warning or disappointment has worked. Lately, only a few hospitals have been declared corona-designated. But why on earth would a person with a broken arm or acute gastritis go to those hospitals?
The truth is, a very little number of tests are done daily. A news report says the only country with a fewer number of tests than ours is Afghanistan. While the only recourse is test, test and test, as announced by the WHO chief, how does our health administration expect to contain the virus with disproportionately limited number of tests in a country of 170 million?