Cry for ICU beds at RMCH
On May 31, Niamat Ali (70) of Naogaon's Niamatpur upazila, who was suffering from breathing complications, died while waiting for ventilator support at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital's (RMCH) intensive care unit (ICU).
A day later, Niamat's family came to know that he had Covid-19, and by that time, the virus spread to seven of his family members.
Right now, health authorities in Rajshahi are struggling to manage the increasing number of patients with limited ventilators and high-flow oxygen beds, and simultaneously, are trying to deal with rising Covid-19-positive test results.
Amid this situation, some people have alleged that they could not know their test results at the proper time, while others said results do not reach people who give samples, leading to further spread of the deadly virus.
In 24 hours till Friday morning, at least 16 people died at the Covid-19 unit of RMCH. Of them, 10 were Covid-19 positive, while the six others were suspected to be infected.
Friday's death toll at RMCH was the highest in a day since the outbreak. Among the dead, nine were from Chapainawabganj, six from Rajshahi and one from Naogaon.
From May 24 to June 4, a total of 93 people died at RMCH's Covid-19 unit. Of them, 58 were Covid-19 positive, while the rest were suspected to have Covid-19.
Meanwhile, six more died at the coronavirus unit of RMCH in 24 hours till 8am yesterday. Two of them, who were from Chapainawabganj, were Covid-19 positive.
Earlier in the day, health authorities in Rajshahi started random rapid antigen tests at five points in the city -- Shaheb Bazar Zero Point, Haragram Bazar, C&B intersection, Laxmipur intersection, and Talaimari. A total of 297 samples were collected from these points and of these, 27 tested positive for Covid-19. The infection rate is nine percent at the moment.
RMCH Director Brig Gen Shamim Yazdani said he predicted the spread of coronavirus two weeks back and requested health authorities to impose "complete lockdown" in four districts of Rajshahi division.
District authorities in Chapainawabganj have imposed lockdown since May 24. The district's Covid-19 detection rate was 54 percent; at least 82 were found Covid-19 positive in the district out of 152 tested on Friday.
Restrictions imposed in Rajshahi and Naogaon districts have been relaxed for mango trade, but the infection detection rate in those districts was around 30 percent.
The restrictions, however, could not keep people inside their houses, as streets and highways were full of people, who were searching for jobs or involved in mango trade.
Meanwhile, inter-district transport remains suspended.
The district administration in Natore was yet to take any decision about lockdown till yesterday, while the district's Covid-19 detection rate increased to 40 percent.
Naogaon's Niamat Ali was taken to RMCH on May 29, when his condition was stated to be critical by local hospital doctors, his son Moyen Uddin said.
"Doctors prescribed ICU support for my father, but there were some 35 other critical patients waiting for the service. My father died long before it was time for his name to be called," he told this correspondent over phone.
On June 1, after his father died, Moyen got a text message stating that his father was Covid-19 positive. He said the message took four days to arrive, since his father's samples were taken on May 29.
Text messages of test results are supposed to reach individuals within three days.
"My father had been suffering from asthma for the last two years, so when he got fever, we thought it was the common cold. We didn't think much of his condition," Moyen said.
When he got the message, they decided to have the whole family tested, and out of 17 members, seven were found to be Covid-19 positive on Friday, he said.
The infected family members decided to isolate themselves in their homes in the upazila's Kanoil Dangapara village, Moyen said.
The RMCH director said at least 225 patients were undergoing treatment at the Covid-19 unit on Friday, while more than 40 patients were waiting for an ICU bed.
The hospital has been functioning with 17 ventilators at the ICU, which needs more ventilators.
"We demanded more ventilators from government," he said.
Contacted, Rajshahi Medical College Principal Dr Nawshad Ali said the college experts were conducting tests at two RT-PCR laboratories, which have been overburdened with samples.
At least 400 samples from Rajshahi division's four districts remain pending every day.
They got government allocation for another RT-PCR laboratory, but it cannot begin operations, as a component of the machine is yet to reach Rajshahi from Dhaka.
About the test results, he said they send results to the management information system department of Directorate General of Health Services, which is responsible for notifying people who gave samples for testing.
"Text messages are sent accordingly, but in some cases the messages remain unread by recipients," he added.
They also send results to police, administration, health officials and local government bodies to inform them of infected individuals and ensure their isolation, he informed.
Nittya Dev Sharma, area manager of Caritas Bangladesh, said some 16 people had been isolated at his office in Adda of Gomostapur upazila in Chapainawabganj.
"All of them gave samples, but none got messages. Yet, we isolated them, as antigen tests showed they are Covid-19 positive," he said, adding that one of the 16 was taken to RMCH's ICU, and another was later sent for home quarantine.
Meanwhile, a special meeting was held at the deputy commissioner's office in Rajshahi yesterday to assess the overall Covid-19 situation of the city.
Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton, Divisional Commissioner Humayun Kabir, DIG Abdul Baten, City Police Commissioner Abu Kalam Siddique were present in the meeting, among others.