Govt hospitals to get 1,200 more Covid-19 beds
The government has instructed six public hospitals in the capital to add another 1,200 Covid-19 beds as the pandemic continues to surge, leaving healthcare facilities near capacity.
Speaking to The Daily Star on July 18, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, "In a meeting with hospital officials, we have asked them to increase the number of Covid general beds immediately. We hope the task will be completed at the earliest."
He said the government made the decision as the number of Covid patients has been on the rise and the number of empty hospital beds is decreasing gradually.
Covid cases and deaths have been going up in Dhaka over the last one month. There are 5,717 Covid general beds in public and private hospitals in the capital. Only 2,070 of them were vacant as of yesterday.
Besides, only 147 out of 878 Covid ICU beds were unoccupied in the city yesterday.
The meeting decided to add 400 Covid beds at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, 300 beds at National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR), 200 beds at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital, 100 beds each at National Institute of Neurosciences and Hospital, National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital and National Institute of Mental Health and Hospital.
Of the six public hospitals, Shaheed Suhrawardy and National Institute of Neurosciences already have 263 and 60 general beds respectively for Covid patients.
The Convention Centre of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) will be turned into a 1,000-bed field hospital for Covid patients.
"It will have 400 ICU [intensive care unit] and as many HDU [high dependency unit] beds," said the health minister.
Apart from this, a central monitoring team has been formed to monitor the hospital services in the capital, Zahid said after Sunday's meeting with the officials of public hospitals.
"Our resources are limited. The increased number of beds will not be enough if the situation is not controlled right away," the minister warned.
Health professionals said increasing the number of beds will not bring any change if the manpower is not increased simultaneously.
"We have already started expanding the hospital beds. Our 8th-12th floor will be turned into a Covid unit. We are hopeful of adding 200 beds to the hospital, but we don't have ICU facilities," NITOR Director Abdul Gani Mollah told The Daily Star on July 19.
He, however, said they have a shortage of manpower as the NITOR doctors are not tasked with treating Covid patients. "But we will try to ensure making our best efforts as this is a crucial time."
Prof Dr Khalilur Rahman, director of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, said they are capable of increasing the number of Covid beds up to 350.
Asked about manpower, he said they have already communicated with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) for additional manpower.
Dr Sheikh Farid Hossain Miah, director (hospitals) at DGHS, said they cannot recruit healthcare professionals overnight.
"Recruitment of doctors, nurses, and technologists is under process. The existing manpower will provide services for now."
He said the ICU beds for Covid patients will also be increased.
Currently, there are 15,625 general beds for Covid patients across the country. Of them 6,198 were vacant yesterday, according to DGHS data.
Out of 1,301 Covid ICU beds across the country, only 257 were unoccupied until yesterday.