Even five years after inception, the Burn and Plastic Surgery Unit at Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) is struggling with acute shortage of staff and spaces, resulting in belated services to both inpatients and emergency patients.
On a recent visit, this correspondent found that at least 80 patients were admitted to the 24-bed unit, with dozens of them and their relatives taking shelter on the floor, in corridors, on the landings of staircases, and in front of physicians’ rooms.
Dr Hashmot Ali, assistant registrar of the unit, said an average of eight to ten patients turned out in the unit every day, half of whom required hospital admission.
Abdul Halim, who rushed his brother Sajib to CMCH on April 22, said Sajib had suffered 25 percent burns to his body but had to wait for hours to have his wounds dressed.
He was allocated a bed three days later, Halim said, adding that Sajib also had his dressing redone a day after he needed it.
The burn unit currently has eight doctors, four nurses, two ward boys, five ayahs (attendants) and a sweeper working across three shifts.
Arju Begum, mother of four-year-old Nasrin Akter who had burnt two hands and arms, said her daughter was attended at least one and a half hours after their arrival from Hathazari upazila. She said she could avail a bed for Nasrin only a day later.
A number of other patients alleged that the ward boys and ayahs often did dressings hurriedly and carelessly and charged excessive “tips”.
A doctor said they trained ward boys and ayahs to do dressings, a job of the nurse.
At least 15 nurses and 10 more doctors are required to ensure proper treatment, said Associate Professor Mrinal Kanti Das, in-charge of the unit.
He said dressing of a normal wound required 30 to 45 minutes, and the severe cases took twice or more time, while every single dressing was redone on alternate days.
Since there is no intensive care unit (ICU) in the burn unit, critical patients are sent to Dhaka, said Dr Mrinal.
“The burn unit has an operation theatre (OT) but all of the four approved posts, including that of an in-charge, two nurses and a ward boy, are vacant. It also lacks necessary instruments and appropriate lighting facilities,” he said.
Dr Mrinal said they conducted surgeries in their own OT one day per week and in the OT of Urology Department two days a week. On average, 12-14 operations are carried out on each of these three days, he added.