When Jamshed Haider, a banker and a resident of port city's Ameerbagh Residential Area, started to have breathing difficulties on the morning of May 11, his family took him to Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID), a government hospital dedicated for treating Covid-19 patients in Chattogram.
But without admitting the patient, doctors at BITID referred him to Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH), saying that he was a cardiac patient, alleged family members.
Jamshed died on the way to CMCH.
"The doctors at BITID did not admit my brother. They did not even provide him with primary treatment," said Zia Haider, brother of Jamshed. "If they had given him oxygen support, he would have survived," he added.
Jamshed's health condition became more critical while being taken to CMCH, said Quamrul Morshed, a colleague of Jamshed.
This is not just a random case. In Chattogram, many critical patients are not being able to get admitted to hospitals and being deprived of treatment as the hospitals dedicated for treating Covid-19 patients suspect them as non-Covid-19 patients while the general hospitals suspect them as Covid-19 patients.
Besides, the private hospitals in most cases are not admitting any patient unless they can show test reports that say they are not Covid-19 patients. Many patients eventually lose the battle for life, deprived of treatment.
Meanwhile, many hospitals are running out of isolation and ICU beds thus being unable to admit patients as well. According to sources, all the 100 isolation beds and 10 ICU beds in Chattogram General Hospital filled up on May 16 and patients with Covid-19 symptoms are not being admitted there. The hospital added 50 more beds yesterday to cope up with the situation.
Amid such circumstances, incidents of patients being denied treatment continue to take place.
Rights organisations have also expressed concerns over the matter.
Amnesty International in a statement on May 14 said it has found that hospitals are refusing to admit people with the symptoms, despite having the capacity to diagnose and treat them.
Calling upon authorities to investigate the allegations, it said, "The shortage of necessary medical equipment has not only made the frontline health workers' job difficult, it in fact puts them at the greatest risk of being exposed to Covid-19."
Not just Amnesty, Ain O Salish Kendra also expressed similar concerns. Citing media reports, the rights body said several patients had died after failing to get admitted to different hospitals.
This was not only the case for patients suffering from fevers, cold-coughs and respiratory problems, but also those without such symptoms were being deprived of treatment at private and government hospitals, said its recent statement.
Meantime, this correspondent spoke to many port city residents, they also mentioned that patients have to wait for five to seven days to test for Covid-19 and also to get reports. Also, for them to go to the hospital and get tested, they have to wait in long queues for hours without maintaining any physical distance.
About Jamshed, Prof Dr MA Hasan, director of BITID, said the patient was suffering from heart disease and required ICU support. "So our duty doctor referred him to CMCH for ICU support," he added.
Contacted, SM Nazer Hossain, central vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said, "Like the banker, many patients in Chattogram are deprived of treatment. By denying patients treatment, hospitals are depriving them of their basic right. Covid-19 or non-Covid-19 criteria should not be taken into consideration when it's about saving someone's life."
Contacted, Dr Mahfuzur Rahman, convener of Public Health Rights Protection Committee, Chattogram, said it was seen in research that the hearts and kidneys of many Covid-19 patients get affected. So, every dedicated covid19 hospital should have cardiologists and nephrologists so that suspected patients are not referred to any other hospital.
"We need to increase testing facilities so that people can get test reports quickly and get treatment accordingly," he said, adding, "Besides, a separate flu corner should be introduced in every hospital to treat Covid-19 suspected patients."
Prof Shakeel Ahmed, an epidemiologist and in-charge of BITID laboratory, said if a separate flu corner is introduced in every hospital and doctors are equipped with PPE, no patient, whether Covid-19 suspected or not, would be deprived of treatment.