Ensuring Intensive Care Unit (ICU) facilities for patients remains a major challenge to tackle coronavirus in Chattogram, according to the authorities concerned.
Meanwhile, the three designated hospitals for providing treatment and isolation for Covid-19 patients have no ICU facilities, which continues to raise concerns amid fear of the virus spreading.
Since the confirmation of Covid-19 patients in the country, the district administration and civil surgeon's office in Chattogram have been trying to ensure such facilities for patients.
According to sources at civil surgeon's office, there is no official confirmation of any coronavirus patient in Chattogram and no one has been taken to any official isolation unit yet.
However, though around 10 beds at ICU have been designated for coronavirus patients at Chattogram Medical College Hospital, the hospital authorities have expressed unwillingness to admit such patients fearing risk of infection -- since over 3,000 patients on an average take treatment every day at the lone tertiary-level hospital of the region.
Apart from CMCH, there is also confusion over the actual number of ICU beds in private hospitals in the port city. Even the civil surgeon's office could not provide information in this regard.
Considering the condition, a coordination meeting was held at the divisional commissioner's office on Tuesday, where high officials of Bangladesh Army, Navy, DGHS and district administration were present.
After the meeting, Deputy Commissioner of Chattogram Elias Hossain said, "At present we have no cases of isolation in Chattogram and 973 people are in home quarantine."
"We have asked private hospitals that have ICU facilities, to dedicate at least two ICU beds for coronavirus patients and are working to assign a private hospital solely to tackle coronavirus," said the DC.
"Coronavirus-afflicted patients will have to bear the cost of staying at ICU in private hospitals," he mentioned.
In reply to another question, the DC said, "We have kept 10 ambulances for Covid-19 patients. If anyone is found to have symptoms, they will be taken to designated isolation units."
CMCH Director Brig Gen Mohsen Uddin Ahmed said, "Around 3,500 patients are given treatment at CMCH daily. We have opened a flu corner at the hospital; if a person with coronavirus-like symptoms comes to the hospital, we will sent them to healthcare centres designated for isolation."
Talking to The Daily Star, Civil Surgeon Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said, "We have told the CMCH authorities to facilitate at least four beds at ICU for coronavirus patients. Apart from that, we are trying to arrange some ICU beds in the 250-bed Chattogram General Hospital, but it will take at least three weeks."
Though there are separate ICU units in different private clinics including Max Hospital, Park View, CSCR, Royal Hospital, Chattogram Metropolitan Hospital, Medical Centre, Surgiscope and Treatment Centre, the number of beds with ICU facilities is not more than 50.
But it is necessary to treat Covid-19 patients in complete isolation with ICU services.
Contacted, Prof Dr Emran Bin Yunus, former Principal of Chattogram Medical College, said, "We need to rearrange our available ICU resources."
At first, an ICU unit can immediately be opened at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases by collecting some of the existing ICU facilities from CMCH and Combined Military Hospital, Chattogram as well as from Dhaka, said Dr Yunus.
"Besides, the authorities need to sit with the owners of private clinics to provide some facilities there," he added.
Since Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease, the private clinics having ICU units can dedicate a few of their ICU beds in isolated cabins, said Dr Yunus, also a scientific consultant for World Health Organization (WHO).
"The private healthcare centres need to come forward with a mindset to share and sacrifice in order to tackle the situation," said Prof Yunus, adding that a guideline should be formulated to prioritise patients who would need ICU facilities in the given situation.