POST TIME: 19 March, 2020 11:39:23 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 March, 2020 05:50:49 PM
Doctors, caregivers unguarded for scanty protective gears

Doctors, caregivers unguarded for scanty protective gears

A Bangladesh Railway employee conducts thermal scanning of people leaving the capital by train at the entrance of Kamalapur Rail Station yesterday as the authorities strengthened measures against the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus in the country. Independent photo

Doctors and caregivers likely to come in close contact with patients amid the spread of the coronavirus are now distancing themselves for fear of getting the infection, as they do not have required preventive materials during treatment. A number of physicians said their traditional aprons, gowns, and gloves were not at all safe for preventing the coronavirus. Special gears, used by doctors and health assistants in other countries, are needed, they said.

The doctors also said that if they did not get such equipment and materials, many doctors and nurses would fear spread of the virus and stay away from treatment of patients. The recent incident of the death of a Bangladeshi returnee from Canada occurred due to the negligence of doctors of Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH). They wrongly thought that the patient, actually suffering from acute stomach pain, had been infected by the virus. The doctors did not go near the patient because they did not have proper gowns and other measures.

The family members of the girl claimed that the inattention stemmed from their suspicion that the patient had the coronavirus. As the DMCH is not equipped to test patients for coronavirus and the medical staff did not have protective suits, they allegedly refused to approach the patient until it was too late.

After hearing that the girl was from Canada, nurses and other health workers began screaming and ran to the doctors to announce that the girl had the coronavirus. The whole ward fell into chaos. All doctors and nurses soon left the ward or slipped into their offices, refusing to go near the girl.

A similar incident happened at the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR) on Monday.

According to hospital sources, a Saudi Arabia-returnee was admitted three or four days back. The patient had a fever, and he was sneezing and coughing. In

the morning on Wednesday, it suddenly spread that he was suffering from the

coronavirus. This caused panic among patients and hospital staff. Later, the hospital authorities sought assistance from the government’s Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) to conduct his examination. On condition of anonymity, a nurse said the matter was reported to the IEDCR in the morning. Patients in the ward wanted to leave as no one came for examination till noon. The man was later kept in isolation in a room in the hospital’s new building. The nurse said no one wanted to go there, adding that they did not have the necessary materials, including masks and other preventive gears.

Healthcare workers at highest risk

Physicians and healthcare workers across the country are feeling insecure amid the coronavirus infection of a number of Bangladeshis and suspected cases as they do not have proper gears to put on while treating such patients.

Talking to The Independent, a professor of the DMCH, not wanting to be named, said the hospital does not have such preparations for physicians and health workers.

“All of us are in an insecure environment. The hospital authorities have provided very few safety gears, which are too little for the staff. We have to manage our own protection gears. The authorities mostly provide one-time use items,” he said.

Most of the patients are coming to the DMCH, but the facilities given to the doctors and nurses are not enough to treat them, the doctor added. Many of the physicians and health workers of the hospital said they are constantly getting patients with flu-like symptoms and they continue to work in these conditions without any protection. Already four doctors of the DMCH have been quarantined at home.

However, none of these doctors is infected, Dhaka Medical College (DMC) Principal Dr Khan Abul Kalam Azad said on Wednesday. He also said these doctors treated patients infected with a common cold and cough, but four of them tested positive for coronavirus. “So, they have been quarantined at home. Two of them are from medicine and two are nephrologists,” said Abul Kalam Azad. A professor of the medical college said the patient who tested positive for the coronavirus was admitted to the medicine ward around eight or nine days back with flu-like symptoms. The patient was a returnee from a foreign country.

On Tuesday, the medical authorities found out that his symptoms suggested that he has the coronavirus. A board immediately met to discuss the next steps, and the four doctors who mostly dealt with the patient were sent on home-quarantine.

Speaking with The Independent, Dr Monira Parveen, associate professor of the virology department of DMC, said that doctors in the hospital are in highly vulnerable to the virus because patients with symptoms similar to the coronavirus have been calling on them over the past few days.

“The problem is that investigation of the coronavirus is not like testing for some other viruses. We need personal protection gears and special test kits. As of this moment, we don’t have that,” she added.

Like the DMCH, other medical college hospitals in the country and private hospitals have no protection gears.

While visiting Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College & Hospital (SSMCH), it was found that the hospital is not ready for coronavirus treatment. There is no preparation for the safety of nurses and doctors.

Visiting Mugada General Hospital, it was found that two rooms have been kept for quarantine and isolation on the third and fourth floors.  Although the hospital was supposed to provide treatment for coronavirus-infected patients separately in the building or in the old building, it was not followed. Coronavirus wards are next to other patients’ wards. So, patients and relatives and the staff of the hospital are in panic.

SSMCH director Dr Uttam Kumar Barua said they are ready, but it will take a week to prepare well. As the virus is spreading rapidly outside the country, this ward and quarantine must be set up in different area, he added. The director mentioned that in keeping with directives received from the ministry, health directorate, IEDCR, and departmental directors, civil surgeons are making such arrangements at the departmental and district levels across the country.

The scenario outside capital is very flimsy as there are no protection gears for the upazila-based clinics and hospitals.

Talking to The Independent a very number of doctors claimed that they have no such kit or preventive measure but they eager to provide healthcare supports to the patients. On condition of anonymity, a doctor from Nababganj Upazila told The Independent that this upazila received a large number of Bangladesh expatriates in last couple of months.

“Last few days experienced spike in patients with cough and cold complications. As we have no corona detection kit, most of our staffers are in fear. Now we are thinking to close the outdoor facilities of our clinic,” he said.

He mentioned that I have three children and me too have to get back home at the end of the day, of course, this time with a big sense of insecurity.

Like Nababganj, other upazilas across the country are reeling under same situation.

Most of the hospital staffers claimed that they are in hard times as they don’t have the facilities to test COVID-19-affected patients there.

Doctors and nurses at different hospitals are refusing to provide medicare to patients if they have any foreign travel history.

 Meanwhile, in Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital (RMCH) around 200 interns of the on Thursday stopped attending to patients for four hours in demand of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

However, they came back to work attending patients after authorities started supplying masks, gloves and sanitisers to their colleagues who are working in the vulnerable units.

Dr Saiful Ferdous, Deputy Director of the RMCH said that the hospital has received nearly 100 pieces of PPEs, 1,000 units each of masks, gloves and gowns.

“We have our limitations. We couldn’t provide the PPEs to all doctors of the hospital. We were able to facilitate just the coronavirus unit doctors,” he said.

However, talking to The Independent, Dr Mohammad Abdul Aziz, secretary general of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad (SWACHIP), said the government is ready to face the coronavirus challenge and has enough preparations to provide preventive gears to hospitals. “We have enough preventive gears that are being sent to different hospitals.