Abu Taher, a 57-year-old man suffering from spinal pain, hip fracture, diabetes, and kidney problems, braved traffic in front of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for three days on a wheelchair to be tested for Covid-19.
Abu Taher and his son Al-Amin came from Chandpur for treatment at the BSMMU on November 8. After going from one department to the other, doctors of the orthopaedic department said on Sunday that he has to be admitted, but needed a coronavirus test for that.
The fever clinic where tests are conducted is outside the BSMMU premises, situated on the opposite side of the road.
This correspondent saw Abu Taher being pushed on a wheelchair by his son towards the Shahbagh intersection on Tuesday, the day his sample was collected after they had waited in vain the previous two days.
Al-Amin had to navigate the wheelchair through speeding buses and cars as there is no footpath on that side of the road. People travelling back to BSMMU from its fever clinic have to walk to either the Shahbagh intersection or towards Hotel Intercontinental in the opposite direction, cross the road and walk back to BSMMU.
"My father needs to be admitted urgently, but it took three days to take the coronavirus test, including today [Tuesday]. I don't even know when I will get the report. Today, I saw many people who gave their samples two days ago, but they still haven't gotten the report," Al-Amin told The Daily Star.
"We have no other way to come here [BSMMU] other than through the Shahbagh intersection or the Hotel Intercontinental intersection. What makes it more difficult is that there is no footpath here," said Al-Amin.
Abu Taher said he had gotten the report which showed he was Covid-19 negative yesterday, but he said hospital authorities told him that he would have to wait one or two weeks as there are currently no seats.
Abu Taher said that since he was staying at a relative's house, waiting that long would be difficult.
Patients being pushed on wheelchairs with vehicles rushing by them has become a common sight in the Shahbagh area. This reporter and a photographer of this newspaper witnessed several such sights between Monday and Wednesday.
Patients have to face this hardship due to the fever clinic being situated outside the hospital. The ongoing Metro Rail construction work has also made it difficult for pedestrians. Patients said the hardship was greater for critical patients or those with physical disabilities.
People were seen gathering in front of the fever clinic from 7.30am on Tuesday and before the gate was opened at 8.30am, the initial line of 8-10 people grew to about 25-30.
As the line stretched on the road, waiting patients were splashed with water from potholes on the street as cars rushed by.
Abdur Rahman, a freedom fighter from Sunamganj and one of several waiting in line, said, "They [hospital authorities] said we would get the result today, but are now saying different. We thought we could go back to Sunamganj today after meeting the doctor but it may not be possible."
His attendee Abdul Halim said, "A freedom fighter is facing this kind of harassment here… what will general people do?"
Brig Gen Dr Zulfiquer Ahmed Amin, director (hospital) of BSMMU said, "We can now do at least 500 tests a day -- we use two PCR machines, sometimes three. I didn't get any information about not getting results in time or any kind of service problems. I will try to find out.
"Sample collection inside the hospital is for admitted patients in the corona unit and doctors of BSMMU." he said. When asked about patients of other units, he said if other units have critical patient, they allowed them to submit samples there.