No ICU, testing lab for 28 lakh residents of Patuakhali, Barguna
It has been more than a year since the novel coronavirus pandemic broke out in the country. But 28 lakh people living in the districts of Patuakhali and Barguna still need to take their critically ill Covid patients to Barishal as the ICU unit for Covid patients at the 250-bed Patuakhali medical college hospital could not be made operational during this time.
To make matters worse, the hospital still does not even have any RT-PCR laboratory to detect Covid-19. As a result, it takes two to three days to identify a Covid patient after the sample collected from the patient is sent to a lab in Barishal, Bhola or Dhaka.
Only last week, after awaiting installation for about three months, five specialised beds for the hospital's five-bed ICU unit were finally unboxed and set up inside the ICU room. But the beds alone are quite useless without the availability of other crucial ICU equipment including ventilators.
Although the health directorate sent two such ventilators for the ICU unit last year, those too could not be put to use, as there is no system of central oxygen supply installed at the hospital.
Using a primitive method, multiple oxygen cylinders are currently connected to a device that provides an inadequate and unreliable flow of oxygen at the hospital.
Even if all these crucial lifesaving equipment were operational, there is still no one to run the ICU unit and its equipment round the clock, as no trained workforce has been given appointment by the ministry concerned yet.
The hospital authorities already wrote to the Health Services Division under the health and family welfare ministry, seeking urgent appointment of 79 trained employees at the ICU unit of the 250-bed hospital in Patuakhali. But the request is yet to be fulfilled till date.
The staffers required to run the ICU unit include four anaesthesia consultants, 15 ICU anaesthetists, 30 nurses, and 10 each of male and female nursing assistants and security guards.
During a visit to the hospital this Sunday, only 25 patients were found at its 80-bed Covid unit.
Many attendants of Covid patients this correspondent spoke with said that most beds in the Covid unit are lying empty, as critical Covid patients had to be transferred to out-of-district hospitals where central oxygen supply is available.
However, the hospital's 50-bed 'Covid Isolation Ward' was found filled to capacity and a good number of undiagnosed patients with Covid symptoms were seen on the floor of the ward's hallway. At least 80 patients were undergoing treatment at the isolation ward on Sunday.
Lokman Hakim, assistant director of the hospital, confirmed that the two ventilators they received for the ICU unit last year has remained useless without the availability of centrally supplied oxygen.
The ICU unit will start serving patients as soon as the required workforce they sought is provided by the ministry, he said, adding that they were assured of getting an RT-PCR lab for the hospital.
According to official data, 3,558 people tested positive for Covod-19, 2,560 made recovery and 74 died of the disease in Patuakhali on Sunday.