A ray of hope amid grim statistics
Amid a dengue outbreak of unprecedented scale, it is heartening to see the medical pushback afforded by the repurposing of what was once a dedicated Covid hospital in Mohakhali, Dhaka. The Dhaka North City Corporation converted the 500-bed hospital into a dedicated dengue one on July 12. Since then, according to a report by this daily, it has been performing commendably, providing treatment to a total of 24,441 patients in its outdoor facilities while admitting 5,090 of them. Thus, it has become a lifeline for many patients in critical condition, who are arriving not only from within Dhaka but also from neighbouring districts.
This year, dengue has already cast a long shadow over Bangladesh with a staggering toll of 839 lives claimed and nearly 170,768 individuals infected till Monday morning – a grim reality that shows little sign of improving even as we reach the end of the traditional peak period. These numbers are not mere statistics. They represent the pain and suffering of families affected by this relentless mosquito-borne disease across the country. The transformation of the Mohakhali hospital was a much-needed response to this scenario.
Critical patients with platelet deficiency, shock syndrome, and low blood pressure are mainly referred here, thanks to its bed sufficiency and its arsenal of 45 ICU beds – which have been instrumental in saving lives. Unlike most public hospitals, it is also quite well-staffed, with some 87 medical officers and a good number of specialised doctors and nurses working around the clock to treat patients. Their commitment as well as the relatively effective management of resources have been an example worth emulating at this critical time.
However, this is still just one hospital, and we need all hospitals in the country, especially in cities outside Dhaka, to be equipped to accommodate the influx of patients and treat them properly – something they are struggling to do. Asking them not to refer dengue patients to hospitals in Dhaka – as the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has recently done – does not help in the absence of proper treatment opportunities in local hospitals. Besides the struggles for sufficient medical facilities, another major problem this year – and in recent years as well – has been the government's consistent failure to limit the spread of dengue.
Unfortunately, since there is no vaccine or specific drug to treat dengue, our primary defence against it still lies in effectively containing its spread and providing timely care, and we must urge the authorities to ensure they deliver on both these fronts. The current outbreak is a stark reminder of the pressing need to invest in and strengthen our public healthcare system. Building additional dedicated facilities, increasing the number of medical professionals, and enhancing resources to deal with diseases like dengue are critical steps going forward.