Patients afraid to go to hospital
The nonstop countrywide shutdowns and blockades complete with intense picketing are preventing patients in the north from visiting hospitals or clinics.
Take, for instance, Muni Begum, a housewife from a remote village in Bogra, a BNP-Jamaat stronghold. She is eight-months pregnant and has been suffering from acute stomach cramps and nausea for the past two weeks.
However, due to the ongoing violent protests that the local BNP-Jamaat men unleashed a month ago, she did not dare go out to seek medical attention. “How do I dare, when they are torching even ambulances carrying patients?”
At last on Saturday, which has been relatively terror-free, her sister-in-law took her to the 250-bed Mohammad Ali Hospital, one of the two main medical centres in Bogra.
Dulali Khanom, who lives in a village eight kilometres off the Bogra town, is in the same difficult situation. She has been struck with chronic fever, but was unable to find a transport to take her to the town. “How do you come when there is no transport?” the frustrated 20-year old said.
Finally, on Saturday noon she was able to make the trip from her village Gabtoli to Shaheed Ziaur Rahman Medical College Hospital (SZMCH), the other big medical centre in Bogra. “I would not have come today though if it was a hartal day,” she added.
Authorities of the two hospitals and two other clinics in the northern town said the number of patients have progressively dropped since October 26, when this wave of political unrest started.
At Mohammad Ali Hospital, the oldest medical centre in Bogra, some 14,671 people came to seek treatment in November, the lowest in eight months. In the first 12 days of December, 4,023 people came for medical care.
As for inpatients, it stood at 1,000 in November, down from 1,342 in September and 1,022 in October.
Gaziul Alam, superintendent of Mohammad Ali Hospital, said mostly emergency patients are brought to the hospital during shutdowns and blockades.
“Even those who live in town are scared of going to doctors on hartal days,” said Ashraf Ali, managing director of Doctor's Clinic in Bogra.
Doctors say delayed treatment may aggravate disease, which eventually increases treatment period and costs. As for acute diseases, going without treatment for long increases health risk.
“A stitch in time saves nine,” said AKM Mustafa Kamal Pasha, director of SZMCH.
What is more worrying, he says, is that the supply of hospital logistics gets badly disrupted by such unrest. The supply of medical equipment such as the oxygen cylinder is disrupted, for example, and many doctors and nurses cannot come to work.
“Treatment is for all. Parties that enforce such programmes should keep the health services out of its purview,” Pasha added.