It is a cause of great concern that in the midst of the second wave of Covid-19 in Bangladesh, one of the healthcare institutions that has stood out in providing services throughout the pandemic, the Mugda General Hospital, is understaffed and also suffering from a lack of necessary resources. A report published in this daily yesterday showed how it is taking longer than usual for the hospital to deliver CT scans of Covid-19 patients due to a lack of staff in the relevant department. It also detailed how Mugda is operating way over its capacity of 329 beds and 19 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients, with at least 15 doctors and an unknown number of nurses and other staff currently down with the virus themselves.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Mugda Hospital has been at the forefront of providing services to affected patients. Given that this hospital has been dedicated to treating coronavirus patients and knew first-hand the challenges of the first wave, one wonders why it did not receive more support and resources from the authorities over the past year. There are so many patients on the waitlist for ICU beds that those arriving in ambulances are being turned away. And because of the hospital lacking enough oxygen cylinders, patients coming into the emergency ward are being asked to sign a bond stating that they would not seek oxygen. We all had anticipated the second wave for quite some time and seen hospitals like Mugda face these challenges during the first wave. Why then have no steps been taken to make provisions for sufficient beds, ICUs and oxygen cylinders?
There is also the saddening reason behind the hospital lacking manpower: staff members being infected by the virus. According to Mugda staff, the current protocol of working for two weeks and quarantining for two weeks is not possible to follow due to the lack of manpower. Has the health ministry suggested any alternative plan for such instances? Are the healthcare workers being provided with adequate PPEs and the support they need to quarantine when required? It is a shame that the people tasked with the responsibility of working on the frontlines and saving lives are not being able to adequately protect themselves.
We believe it is imperative for the concerned authorities to act quickly in order to ensure that Mugda—and other public hospitals treating Covid-19 patients—have enough resources and staff members at all times to successfully tackle the second wave of the virus. The number of beds and ICUs must be increased, and we must be able to procure more oxygen cylinders for critical patients. The government should also urgently ensure that healthcare workers treating Covid-19 patients are on the priority list for the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines.