As confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the country are on the rise, the government is expanding the intensive care unit (ICU) facilities outside the capital to treat the critical patients.
As of yesterday, a total of 15 ICU beds dedicated for corona patients have been installed in three divisions -- Sylhet, Rajshahi and Mymensingh, according to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Apart from these, there are 34 beds at the two government hospitals dedicated for corona patients -- 26 at Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Hospital and eight at Sheikh Russel Gastro Liver Hospital, Aminul Hasan, director of Hospitals and Clinics of DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.
Besides, there are five beds at Sajida Foundation Hospital and six at Regent Hospital dedicated for Covid-19 patients, he said.
"We are planning to set up 84 more ICU beds in the divisional headquarters for the Covid-19 patients by this week," the DGHS director said.
According to DGHS, there are 508 ICU beds in government hospitals and 737 ICU beds in private hospitals.
Although the government has expanded its ICU facilities in recent times, experts said it is still a far cry from what would be required to meet the demand if the situation turns worse in the coming days.
Last week, the government claimed that it was better equipped for critical care than that of many developed countries.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque, while replying journalists' queries, said many large countries did not have as many ventilators as Bangladesh had.
But when the figure was compared with other South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, the picture seemed very dismal as Bangladesh stood at the bottom in terms of the number of ICU beds.
In Bangladesh, there are 0.7 bed for every one lakh population while the number is 2.3 in neighbouring India.
The situation in developed countries is far better and a comparison seems absurd.
"I cannot say about other countries. What I can say is that the ICU beds for the normal patient and the ones for Corona patient are different. We are planning to install 1,000 ICU beds and working on it," Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of DGHS, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He, however, did not mention by when these beds would be installed.
A report from Imperial College London estimates that 30 percent of patients who are hospitalised with Covid-19 are likely to require mechanical ventilation.
The UK government has recently announced that it aims to add some 1,200 ventilators in less than two weeks, and forecast it may need 30,000 at the peak of the outbreak, reports BBC.
According to a WHO-China joint mission report released last month, five percent of people diagnosed with Covid-19 require artificial respiration and another 15 percent need to breathe in highly concentrated oxygen, meaning that about 20 percent of the patients need ICU care.
There has been concern over treatment facilities for elderly patients in the country as all the six persons who died from the virus were aged between 60 and 75.
According to a 2018 report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the country has a population of 16.46 crore. Of them, 1.30 crore are above 60.