We are coming across, with frightening regularity, reports of patients with Covid-19 symptoms being denied treatment at different private hospitals across the country. According to a report in The Daily Star yesterday, a 63-year-old critically ill woman was turned away by six private hospitals in Sylhet city and subsequently died from breathing complications inside an ambulance on Monday night. Such deaths are not only appalling, but also unacceptable.
While our correspondent inquired about the reasons why she was denied treatment, authorities of one hospital said that all the beds, including those in the CCU and ICU facilities, in their facility were occupied at that time; another hospital outright denied the allegation. The third hospital said they were not prepared at that time to treat Covid-19 patients, and the fourth apparently did not have the ventilator needed to treat her. The last two hospitals she was taken to also did not admit her citing other reasons.
What we understand from this incident is that most of our hospitals are not yet prepared to treat Covid-19 patients. The virus has been around for nearly three months now (since the detection of the first Covid-19 patient in early March), but still most of the hospitals in divisional cities could not make arrangements or get the necessary medical equipment and ICU facilities ready to treat such patients. We can easily guess the situation at the upazila and thana levels.
On the other hand, it seems that most patients with Covid-19 symptoms and their relatives do not have any clue as to where to go for treatment. Most people still do not have any knowledge about the designated hospitals that provide treatment to Covid-19 patients only. There is also a tendency among patients and their relatives to deny the fact that they could be infected with Covid-19, which makes them seek treatment at hospitals and clinics that are not ready to deal with such patients.
However, in an ideal situation, all public and private hospitals should have separate treatment facilities for Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients. The health ministry recently circulated an order in this regard which all hospitals should comply with. The hospital authorities should also provide their doctors and other staff with the necessary safety gear and give them the moral support to carry out their duty without any fear. What is also important is to raise awareness among the public about what to do if anyone has Covid-19 symptoms and where to go for treatment. If all these steps are taken, we hope no patient—Covid-19 or not–will be denied treatment in the future.