An inadequate supply of testing kits to detect the novel coronavirus across Barishal division has become a headache for doctors in the region.
As resources for proper diagnosis are unavailable, doctors are opting to send patients to isolation wards from observing symptoms and their personal suspicion alone.
While it is usual for patients with fever complaints to throng hospitals and diagnostic centres every day, their treatment has become a difficult issue to navigate during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Without proper diagnosis, doctors just cannot be sure if the patients are walking in with simple fever or cough, or are carrying the virus, doctors from different hospitals and clinics across the division told this correspondent.
"It is of course a great difficulty for us to diagnose patients without conducting appropriate tests. Right now, we are informing IECDR in Dhaka every time there is need for a test, which is time-consuming and also risky," said Dr Basu Deb Das, the divisional director (DD) of health and family planning of Barishal.
"Without testing, we cannot refer a patient to isolation ward, but now we have to do just that. It is hazardous for the patient if they turn out to be not affected by the virus," said Doctor Mahabubur Rahman, emergency medical officer of Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital (SBMCH) in Barishal.
Barishal's location puts it under high risk of coronavirus spread. Adjacent district Madaripur is already affected, and many patients come to take treatment to the city's hospitals from Madaripur every day, said health officials.
"Right now we have 78 patients in my (SBMCH's) isolation ward. Most of them are suffering from fever. Many of them have reported dry cough and respiratory problems, but we don't know for sure whether any of the patients are affected by the virus without testing them," said doctor Suleiman Kabir, registrar of medicine ward of the hospital.
According to hospital protocol, a patient has to first come to the medicine ward for primary diagnosis, after which, depending on their condition, they are sent to the isolation ward. However, doctors at the medicine ward face major risk themselves, as protective equipment are almost completely unavailable.
"Even us doctors don't have sufficient protective equipment while working inside the ward other than simple masks," he added.
"It is the season of different types of fever including the common flue, whose symptoms are similar to those of the coronavirus," said Doctor Mohammod Bakir Hossain, director of SBMCH. There is an urgency for testing equipment at the hospital, he added, otherwise coronavirus affected patients may be admitted to other wards.
"I can't give PPE to all doctors for its very limited in supply," he said about the doctors' protective gears.
"I am in constant communication with higher authorities for establishing a lab for testing coronavirus or arranging some kits to test it as soon as possible." said divisional director (DD) of health and family planning Basu Deb Das.
In Barishal division, a total of 2,472 people are under home quarantine care as of yesterday evening, up from 2,232 on Tuesday. In addition, a total of three people have been sent to isolation -- all of them at SBMCH. A patient who was in an isolation ward in Barguna has been sent home, said divisional director Dr Basu Deb.
He also told this correspondent that doctors in the region are agitated due to the lack of supplies, even basic masks, which the doctors have been arranging for by themselves.