How long does it take to get a CT-scan report? A day? Perhaps two?
A Covid-19 patient in the capital's Mugda Medical College and Hospital has been waiting for more than five days for her report.
"My mother was admitted here three days ago. She had the CT-scan done that very day and we've been waiting for the report since then," her son told this correspondent yesterday.
"The doctors told us that we would get the report on Thursday," he said, preferring anonymity.
The report delivery date is five days from when the test was done, which means the doctors can't understand the condition and decide the next course of treatment before that.
"My mother is a dialysis patient. Her condition is really bad. She has been delirious since last night. She has not slept and has been talking non-stop since evening. Every time a doctor comes to check on her, they want to see the test results first," he said.
Asked why the radiology department would require five days to deliver a CT-scan report, Dr Nurul Islam, assistant director of the hospital, took this correspondent on a tour of the department.
He said the department currently has three professors and four to five medical officials.
"We have created a duty roster ensuring that at least half our staffers are always on duty, while the others can stay in quarantine. Currently, two people are on duty."
One was a radiologist, while the other was a medical officer. Together, they had worked on 22 CT scans and a similar number of X-rays and ultrasonogram films since morning, Nurul said.
For each film, the radiologist needs to translate the fuzzy clouds on a black background into a medical diagnosis. It was already 1:00pm and they had been working all morning and were nearing the end of their shift for the day.
"We will not be able to finish this pile today," said Dr Samapti Chakraborty, the radiologist of the hospital. "I can prepare about a maximum of 15 reports a day."
Having at least two more people would ease the workload, said Jagan Bandhu Halder, in charge of the hospital's lab.
"We do not have any chance to get time off to quarantine ourselves. While the norm is to work for 15 days and then take two weeks off for quarantine and observe for symptoms, I have to come every single day because there are not enough workers," said Halder.
Dr Ashim Kumar Nath, director of the hospital, said that among his staff, some 15 doctors had been down with Covid-19 since last week. He could not confirm the number of nurses and ward staffers infected.
The hospital's nephrology department was struggling too.
"We have 35 dialysis machines but 17 are out of order," said the department in-charge, who was running around the administrative block trying to get essentials required to run the machines.
She said the hospital was among the city's few healthcare facilities where Covid-19 patients could also be provided with dialyses.
Meanwhile, the patient load of the hospital was palpable.
The hospital has 329 beds for Covid-19 patients and 19 intensive care unit beds.
At 9:00am, the number of admitted patients was 316. By noon the number rose to 335 -- way beyond the hospital's capacity.
"We had already been at full capacity and had to arrange a few extra oxygen cylinders and stretchers to increase the number of beds," said Dr Nurul Islam.
But even that had a limit.
From afternoon onwards, patients coming into the emergency ward seeking admission were being asked to sign a bond stating that they would not seek oxygen and that they would only want a "normal" bed.
Shima Moni was one of them.
She had come to get tested for Covid-19 but fainted while in queue. At that time, her serial number was 85.
Her husband made her sit on the wooden benches in the reception area and rushed to admit her into emergency. One hospital staffer then told him to sign the bond.
Around that time, two ambulances carrying patients arrived and one was from Sir Salimullah Medical College, also known as Mitford Hospital, in Old Dhaka.
The patient's family, who requested anonymity, signed the bond. "I will get oxygen on my own, my mother needs hospitalisation," said her son.
Meanwhile, all 19 ICU beds were occupied throughout the day. Two ambulances came from Badda, saw the sign saying that there are no ICU beds empty and drove away.
"How can I allow ICU patients from outside when there are 4-5 inpatients on the waitlist today? They should get priority," said Nurul Islam.
To accommodate the waitlist yesterday, 25 percent of the ICU beds would need to be emptied by the end of today (yesterday), he said.
And as the number of people seeking Covid-19 tests has gone up once again, people are having to queue for tests in the dead of the night. The RT-PCR machine in the Mugda medical can carry out 180 tests per day, and that quota is met even before the sun sets.
At 9:00am, Ifti Khan Raihan had already been standing in line for four and a half hours.
"I was Covid-19 positive and I am here to see if I have recovered. I chose this hospital because the cost of tests in private hospitals are too much for me," he said.
Fifty-year-old Morjina, who had been in line since after Fajr prayers with a raging fever, fainted and laid down on the dirty tarmac of the road in front of the hospital. She regained consciousness after a while but was too weak to move.
Others in queue stepped over her to get ahead but she was too delirious to realise anything. She had come alone.
"I have had a fever for a week. My doctor recommended a Covid-19 test, but I cannot even stand any longer," she gasped when approached by this reporter.