‘We can’t leave the battlefield’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 21, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:06 AM, June 21, 2020

‘We can’t leave the battlefield’

Overburdened, MMCH staffers struggle to treat rising patient flow as 215 of them tested coronavirus positive

The Mymensingh Medical College and Hospital (MMCH) is struggling to provide services to an increasing number of patients, including those with Covid-19, since the easing of the countrywide shutdown on May 31.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Mymensingh district was 564 as of June 1. Within just two weeks, by June 19, the number of cases jumped to 1,208 in Mymensingh while that of Jamalpur, Netrokona and Sherpur were 440, 366 and 192, respectively.

The number of patients seeking treatment for other illnesses at the hospital are also increasing, said doctors.

A month ago, some 500 admitted patients would be present at the regular wards of MMCH on any given day; now the number is about 1,000, said Laxmi Narayan Majumder, deputy director of the hospital.

He said patients, who could not reach the hospital during the shutdown, have started coming in from all over the division as public transport has become available.

While MMCH already has a shortage of doctors, the situation turned worse as 215 medical professionals of the hospital got infected by the virus.

They include 50 doctors, 74 nurses and 91 other medical staff, Zakiul Islam, assistant director of MMCH, told this correspondent on June 16.

Of the infected medical personnel, 35 doctors, 55 nurses and 23 staff have recovered and rejoined work while the rest are recovering at home isolation, he added.

The physician said they are reeling under severe pressure both physically and mentally to maintain the duty roasters. Even the pregnant and lactating doctors and nurses have been assigned for regular non-coronavirus wards or tele-medicine service.

At present, 1,727 health professionals, including 311 doctors, 1,003 nurses and 413 other medical staff, are working at the hospital, which has 135 vacant posts for doctors, according to MMCH sources.

Some 42 physicians are assigned for duty at the 70-bed isolation ward for Covid-19 patients at the SK Hospital, a British-era facility now part of MMCH.

Besides, a unit with 150 isolation beds has been dedicated for Covid-19 patients in MMCH's new building. But it is not yet operational.

"We made the duty roaster for three shifts a day -- morning, evening and night -- at the isolation ward with 14 doctors and 14 nurses covering each shift," said the assistant director.

Each team of medical staff continues the roaster for a week, then goes into 14-day quarantine while a fresh team takes over by rotation, he added.

Deputy Director Laxmi Narayan said they have already asked the higher authorities to fill up the vacant posts soon.

"We are the most vulnerable section of the community but we can't leave the battlefield," said Mohiuddin Khan Moon, registrar of the Medicine Department at MMCH.

One of his colleagues, assistant professor Md Emdadullah Khan of the department, was referred to Sheikh Russel Gastro Liver Hospital in Dhaka in a critical state on June 13. He tested positive the following day and is currently recovering.

Nursing Superintendent Umme Saifun shared how at times it becomes difficult to work while risking coronavirus infection as many of them have young children at home.

Hossain Ahmed Golandaj, secretary of Bangladesh Medical Association's Mymensingh unit, held patients, who got admitted at hospitals concealing their health ailments, responsible for the high number of Covid-19 positive cases amongst health professionals, starting early April.

He also said, "The doctors and medical staff might not have been supplied with standard personal protective gear at the early stage of the coronavirus contagion. It could be another reason for the large number of cases."

ABM Mashiul Alam, civil surgeon of Mymensingh, told this correspondent that around 268 medical professionals were tested positive in the district as of June 16.

About tele-medicine service, he said, "There are five hotline numbers at every upazila health complex for treatment seekers to contact directly. We receive around 250 calls per day and the assigned doctors provide necessary advice."

"We have already opened mobile medical service in Tarakanda, Phulpur and Muktagachha upazilas and the service will be extended to other upazilas soon," he added.

Mymensingh Divisional Director (Health) Md Abul Kashem said 448 health professionals, including 107 doctors and 108 nurses, got infected by the virus in the division as of June 16.

Sources from his office yesterday said in entire Mymensingh division, MMCH and SK Hospital are the only government facilities with ICU.

There are 10 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients and 10 for non-Covid-19 patients at MMCH, and seven, all for Covid-19 patients, at SK hospital.

The division has 1,228 isolation beds in total.

The sources could not give any information on the number of ICU beds at private hospitals and clinics in the division.

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