For the last one week, Rumpa Saha, who has been suffering from waist pain, is trying to get appointment of a prominent nephrologist in port city.
But the doctor, who has his chamber on KB Fazlul Quader Road, stopped seeing patients there since March 15. Rumpa, a schoolteacher, asked the staff at the diagnostic centre when she will be able to see the doctor, but they also did not know.
On March 23, she went to the chamber of another nephrologist but found that locked. There was a notice on the door, which said the doctor would not attend chamber for the time being due to unavoidable reasons.
Like Rumpa, many patients in Chattogram have been suffering as most doctors have stopped going to their chambers against the backdrop of coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Meanwhile, Shamsunnahar, a homemaker of Bakalia area, failed to get appointment of a specialist doctor as the physician, who has a chamber in OR Nizam Road area, has stopped tending to patients as well.
The staff members suggested her to go to the emergency of any government hospital. "If it was that simple, no one would have seen doctors at their chambers, spending hefty money," said a frustrated Shamsunnahar.
Admitting the fact, Prof Dr Shahanara Chowdhury, head of gynaecology department at Chattogram Medical College Hospital, told The Daily Star yesterday that many of her colleagues have not been tending to patients at their private chambers for personal safety.
Shahanara, however, said she attended her chamber till Wednesday. "Many doctors are of old age, they have children and parents at home… considering all these, they have decided not to attend chambers until the [coronavirus] situation improves," she said.
According to Dr Faisal Iqbal Chowdhury, general secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association (Chattogram), number of registered doctors in Chattogram is around 7,000.
Of the registered doctors, over 70 percent usually attend chambers in the city and different upazila headquarters but under the present situation most of them have not been seeing patients at chamber.
Asked about the reason, Dr Faisal said self-protection. "Many doctors who are of old age do not want to take the risk of being contaminated," he said. "Also, most doctors are yet to get personal protective equipment (PPE); as a result they are afraid to treat patients."
"There are around one lakh registered doctors in Bangladesh and the government has supplied 2.85 lakh PPE," he claimed, adding, "Even I have not received any yet… so my question is: where are the PPE?"
"Doctors, for example an eye specialist, have to check patients from a very close range… coronavirus-infected patients do not show symptoms in early days… so, if a doctor is contaminated, he would not only contaminate his family but also several hundred patients," said Dr Faisal.
"The government should provide PPE not only to registered doctors in the city, even to the quacks in rural areas to prevent coronavirus transmission."
Asked, Dr Mujibul Haque Khan, president of BMA Chattogram, said he had been attending his chamber regularly. "I think, most doctors are doing the same except those who are old and have been suffering from respiratory problems," he said.