The locking down of the Intensive Care Unit of the Birdem General Hospital, the best diabetic hospital in Bangladesh, after finding four out of five of its patients coronavirus positive is extremely shocking to say the least. All the doctors and nurses who worked at the unit have been sent on quarantine.The 500-bed hospital’s Deputy Director Dr. Najimul Islam has been quoted to have said that a patient admitted to the hospital on April 14 with low sugar levels who contracted the virus from a returnee from Italy might have infected three other patients. Six days before he was found virus negative at a BSMMU test (Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University).
Doctors at the hospital said relatives of the patient did hide the information about his coming into contact with a returnee who had already been suffering from breathing difficulties. Birdem (Bangladesh Institute for Research on Diabetes, endocrine and metabolic disorders) hospital doctors, it appears, committed a blunder of relying on a 6-Day-old Covid-19 test of the carrier patient, putting not only other patients but also the on-duty doctors and paramedics at the Intensive Care Unit in jeopardy. And that too 19 days into the nationwide lockdown that began on March 26 last.
Only critical patients are admitted to ICUs so that they can be given any emergency service they might require to save their lives. Infection of the three patients unawares is a double tragedy for those patients and their relatives. They came to the hospital’s ICU for recovery from some serious ailments have contacted another which at the moment is considered more dangerous. Since the start of the lockdown, the operation of the hospital has been reduced to dealing with emergency patients only, hospital sources said.
Who knows what fate awaits the four ICU patients who have been sent from there to a ‘sent to Covid-19 dedicated hospital’ which may or may not have an ICU. As reported, the doctors and nurses at the hospital complained of the lack of personal protective equipment (PPEs) needed to protect themselves from coronavirus cases who might sneak through unawares. The assurance that they hospital management would now make sure that patients with Covid-19 symptoms is a must from now onwards, but would in no way console those who have been infected for no fault of theirs.
At this crucial hour for the all-pervasive war against coronavirus the nation cannot afford to see its frontline fighters – doctors and nurses – becoming victims themselves.
Again why a health facility of the stature of the Birdem General Hospital should not have kits for instant Covid-19 test of patients who in the eyes of doctors would be suspected to be carriers of the virus before admitting them for cure of other serious ailments. People who go to the Birdem diabetic hospital for admission are ordinarily patients suffering from multiple complications apart from having sugar problems. The hospital cannot refuse them admission. But at this hour of coronavirus pandemic the hospital must screen admission seekers for Covid-19 before admitting them. This screening is inescapable in order to ensure the safety of the hundreds of other patients who already remain admitted getting treatment for ailments.
Plus the hospital must also protect its on-duty physicians and paramedics who offer the medical and other services to the admitted as well as outdoor patients. Those who work at the outpatient department of the hospital need to use PPEs without exception. Otherwise they will continue to become innocent victims. If this continues to happen the hospital will also find difficulty of offering services of experienced hands.
Let the lockdown of Birdem General Hospital’s ICU and the sending of its staff to quarantine be a lesson for all hospitals and diagnostic centres in the country. The mistake of taking the question of safety from the coronavirus pandemic without adequate seriousness should not recur by any means.
Mostafa Kamal Majumdder