Admission to Hospitals: Patients left in quandary
Patients who have not tested positive for the coronavirus but are generically sick are caught in a quandary -- to go to the hospital or not?
First, there is the fear of unwittingly contracting the disease from others in hospital.
Second, there is the fear of being turned away.
As the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research keeps a tight grip on who to test, hospitals are neither being able to test and identify coronavirus patients, nor being able to protect their staff from potential carriers by giving them the PPE (personal protective equipment) suits required.
And so, regular patients are in some circumstances finding themselves with nowhere to turn.
On Sunday night, some locals of Uttara sector 11 protested in front of Regent Hospital while it was receiving an ambulance carrying a delivery patient.
They did so because the hospital recently signed an agreement with the Directorate General Health Services to be one of the multiple hospitals designated for coronavirus patients, and the locals thought that the hospital was receiving a coronavirus patient.
"We had only two inpatients in the hospital, and none of them were Covid-19 patients. One was a woman in labour and the other was a staffer who fell sick," said a member of the administration, who requested anonymity.
Even if they are coronavirus patients, the hospital is duty-bound to treat them, he said.
"After the late evening prayers, the locals came to the hospital and beat up the staff, locked the gates of the road, and did not let an ambulance through. That ambulance was carrying a patient in labour but they thought it was a coronavirus patient. The gate is still locked," he said.
A point of contention was the lack of PPE for the staff and doctors at the hospital, said the administration officer. This fed the locals' fears of community transmission.
The officer-in-charge of Uttara West station had to arrive at the scene with a team to calm down the situation, informed Sub-inspector Baten of the police station.
"The hospital and the locals have not come to an agreement yet," said Baten.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-old entrepreneur had a hard time finding a hospital who can give his father life-saving chemotherapy because they had travelled back from India on March 21.
"My father has cancer. We discovered this when we were in India for his treatment. We completed one chemo session there and the doctor advised us to come back home and finish the rest of the sessions here," said the 27-year-old.
"His next chemotherapy session was supposed to be today but we are struggling to find a hospital who will treat him. We went to one of the hospitals for treatment, but they refused to meet my father because he has just travelled back and needs to be quarantined," he said.
The man informed this correspondent that the doctor told him that there is a strict restriction from management to the hospital personnel to not talk to patients with travel history.
"Even if something happens to me or my father, whether it be for his cancer treatment or coronavirus, where do we go?" asked the concerned son.
Kamrul Hassan ran around with his coughing sister all day yesterday looking for a hospital who would agree to see her.
"My sister works in a hotel and is routinely coming in contact with people who have recently travelled. She has had a persistent cough for 5-6 days and I wanted her checked out," said Hassan.
He first went to Kurmitola General Hospital where he found the admission counter empty. A nurse told him to wait outside for a doctor, but none came.
After waiting for long, he went to Kuwait Maitree Hospital, where he claimed he found the emergency section closed indefinitely.
"There were no doctors or nurses. A member of the law enforcement agency guarding the gate told us that they only take in people referred by the IEDCR," said Hassan.
However, when he went back to Kurmitola Hospital and pleaded his case again, he was able to see a doctor.
But not many were as lucky, as has been evident by some widely-shared social media posts.
The son of the second patient who died of coronavirus faced a very difficult time finding a hospital to take his father, who had pneumonia.
The son, Fuad Abdullah Al Faruque, described his experience on Facebook.
"IEDCR initially refused to test my father because he did not have a travel history. I nevertheless took him to a private hospital in Shyamoli, where they prescribed medication and requested him to recover at home."
Home recovery was not an option for this patient -- he had to be taken to the emergency again the next day as his condition deteriorated, the son wrote. "They said my father needed the ICU, but they would not be able to accommodate him." He then called a private hospital in Mohammadpur, which asked him to come but 15 minutes after arriving told them to leave, he claimed.
He then transferred his father to another private hospital in Kalyanpur which too could not provide ICU support. Meanwhile he kept calling other private hospitals and all gave him non-committal answers -- except Delta Hospital in Mirpur.
"Delta agreed to take my father and had the ICU ready," he said. His father was moved to Delta at 4:00am, after having been shifted from hospital to hospital the whole day. Up until that point, he had not been able to convince IEDCR to test his father, he claimed. It was after his father had to be put on life support that they got him tested. But it was much too late and his father passed away at Delta Hospital.
One Nurun Nahar Noshin's father, a pneumonia patient, was turned away from several private hospitals and died while waiting for his IEDCR test results. He tested negative and the daughter took a photo of the test result and expressed her grief on Facebook.
Never before has the emergency ward of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) been this eerily empty. Not even on Eid days.
The silence speaks volumes about the current health crisis of the country.
Speaking to the admissions counter, our correspondent was informed that while the hospital saw approximately 450-500 people being admitted per day before the crisis, the number has come down to about 200.
DMCH has a unique brand of staff called "trolleymen" -- they are freelance staffers who make a living by pushing patients on trolleys for Tk 50.
They sat around, waiting for work. "If more patients do not show up then I will not be able to buy food for home," said one.
Prof Mujibur Rahman from the Department of Medicine said that if patients show up with normal flu, they are asked to go home and recover.
Similarly Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital's director Uttam Kumar Barua told this correspondent that their number of patients have been halved. "We used to have 1200-1300 inpatients every day. This has gone down to 500-600."