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The pandemic multiplies problems for all patients

The pandemic has simply divided all patients into two distinct categories – coronavirus infected and coronavirus free. Even non-Covid-19 patients are not getting treatment and patients of both groups are facing sad, unwanted deaths.
Chinmay Prasun Biswas
The pandemic multiplies problems for all patients

The deadly novel coronavirus has disrupted life of people all over the world. Normal life, health, economic activities, education, administration, communication - everything has faced a tremendous setback.

Besides its direct attack, many other cruel events are happening in Bangladesh. For any disease, prevention is better than cure but as the coronavirus is little known to scientists up until now, the only way in front of the world was to cure through treatment. That also became tough as no recognised medicine was known to scientists all over the world to treat the new pathogen.

From the very beginning, World Health Organisation has been prescribing some preventive measures but those have not become effective mainly because of people’s tendency not to obey health guidelines. Every day, more than one hundred thousand people are being infected all over the world. Once infected one has to go to hospital and physicians for treatment and cruelty starts from there.

Different news reports inform that Covid-19 patients are not being admitted into hospitals. Even they are not attended at outdoors. Patients are rushing from one hospital to another but they are being refused, and many of them are dying inside ambulance or on vans or rickshaws. Patients are asked to bring certificates that they are not infected by coronavirus but how could they? Is it possible to collect it without test?

If anyone is fortunate enough to get admitted into a hospital, he is not treated properly and due to alleged negligence many patients are meeting death. Government hospitals are the last resort of treatment for millions of common people but these hospitals are in a very bad shape. Condition of private hospitals, which are commonly perceived as providers of better treatment, is worse and harsh. Some instances of cruelty, as published in newspapers, may be recalled.

Shamim Osman, an MP of Narayanganj, said that he had gone tired of asking to start functioning of a hospital for Covid-19 treatment at Narayanganj. A 300-bed hospital with 40 isolation beds and 10 ICUs was scheduled to be used for this purpose from 1st April at Narayanganj but till 16th June it was not ready. Officials of ministry of health falsely assured him. Even an order of the prime minister was not carried out. Being scared, he threatened to attack the hospital, and at last private sector Pro-Active Hospital decided to start treating Covid-19 patients (The Bangladesh Pratidin, 19-6-2020). Shamim Osman is an influential personality in his locality and he feels the problem but there are very few like him at other places.

The pandemic time has simply divided all patients into two distinct categories – coronavirus infected and coronavirus free. Even non-Covid-19 patients are not getting treatment and patients of both groups are facing sad, unwanted deaths. Doctors and nurses of Comilla Medical College Hospital ran away from a patient whom they suspected to be infected with coronavirus. A patient was admitted into Rajshahi Medical College Hospital but in two days no physician attended him, and ultimately he died. A banner has been placed at the main gate asking patients to contact Christian Mission Hospital as there is no treatment in Rajshahi Medical College. Moreover, physicians don’t visit the hospital which has been exclusively designated for Covid-19 patients (Bangladesh Pratidin, 21-6-2020). Even Ibn Sina Hospital was reluctant to treat Habiba Sultana, a nurse of the same hospital and she died untreated. One patient at Charghat, Rajshahi was declared to be coronavirus free but died on the very next day.

Doctors say they are not only to blame because they are also afraid of being infected as sufficient safety measures have not been arranged for them. Whatever be the reason the result is pathetic: due to refusal and negligence patients are dying. Considering gravity of the matter, in response to three writ petitions, the High Court has ordered that refusal to provide healthcare services to any patient in a healthcare centre would be treated as a criminal offence and persons accused must be brought to book. If any critically ill patient is denied treatment at a public or private hospital and dies, that death would be considered as ‘death by negligence’. The High Court has asked the authorities concerned to take legal action against hospitals and clinics if they are found negligent in rendering healthcare services to general patients during this ongoing pandemic.

Garments owners shut down their factories and workers went to their village homes but again those factories were opened and workers came back in throngs, jam packed in trucks, ferries or any available transport. This migration from factory to village and back again in April caused serious apprehension of spread of the virus. April was the cruelest month.

In a video message, Ekramul Karim Chowdhury, an MP of Noakhali has termed ministry of health a super incredible department with neither head nor tail. Nobody knows who is driving this ministry. Even, as a member of standing committee of health ministry, he knows nothing. (Bangladesh Pratidin 20-6-2020).

Another cruelty is trade in the name of test and treatment. Taking advantage of acute scarcity of testing opportunity, some persons are earning quick bucks. News reports inform that hawkers in front of BSMMU are selling serials in line of patients at Tk. 500/- to Tk. 1,000/-. Price of oxygen, a very essential item for serious Covid-19 patients, has touched the sky. At normal time, the demand is 65000 cylinders per year, now it has reached 500,000. Due to scarcity, dishonest businessmen are earning crores of money. Some private hospitals are charging Tk. 300/- per hour for providing oxygen facility.

Some hospitals are also reported to have making money by ‘trading’ with their ICU facilities. Even if not necessary, these private hospitals are pushing patients to their so-called ICUs. A lawyer of Supreme Court went to Yamagata Dhaka Friendship Hospital with stomach pain but he was forcibly taken to ICU and kept there for seven days. Only heavily sedative injection was pushed but without testing the authorities informed his wife that her husband was Covid-19 positive.

A patient was given oxygen only for 30 minutes but Tk. 86,000/- was charged at Anwar Khan Hospital in Dhaka. An illustrated report of the Bangladesh Pratidin (24th June) shows that hands of a patient from Noakhali are fastened with rope on ICU bed at Prasanti Hospital, Malibagh, Dhaka. His relatives complained, though his condition was well, he was dragged to ICU on 14th June. He died on 18th June but Tk. 1,56,000/- was charged. When they expressed their inability to pay, his mobile phone was snatched, they were threatened to be handed over to RAB and the corpse would be delivered to Anjuman-e-Mafidul Islam as unclaimed. After paying Tk. 1,40,000/- (hospital expenses) and Tk. 60,000/- for medicine his dead body was released. There are many other similar instances of cruelty.

Testing fee, as fixed by government, is Tk. 3,500/- but more than double is being charged in many hospitals. Dr. Rashi-i-Mahbub has pointed out that the concerned authority has no control over private hospitals. This is serious. A report of Voice of America published that coronavirus testing facility is being shrunk in Bangladesh due to kits shortage. Even a Chinese medical team has expressed frustration over poor pandemic management in Bangladesh. Supreme Court of India has directed the government to fix uniform rate all over the country. This may be applicable to our country also.

Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the deplorable condition of Bangladesh’s health sector but in addition to this, many dishonest people have found new ways of cheating people which is often very cruel in nature. The empowered authorities must rescue these helpless people from all these problems that they are facing every day.

The writer is a former Commissioner of Taxes

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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