COVID-19: Many dying at home, discovered later

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A 64-year-old resident of West Nakhalpara in the capital fell sick on 7 May and died after four days.

After his death, family members came to know that Abdus Sattar was infected with the coronavirus. He was buried at Rayer Bazar graveyard.

Sattar stayed at home after falling sick and samples were taken from his body after three days, a member of the family told Prothom Alo on Tuesday.

The test results were received after his death, he said adding that no one from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) talked to them regarding the infection.

No one from the government advised them to be alert or to maintain quarantine, he continued.

Aren’t the patients getting beds in the hospitals? Or are they reluctant to go to hospitals? Or no one is following the patients staying at home?
Mushtaq Hussain

Just a police officer from Tejgaon police station called them, he added.

Many coronavirus patients have been dying at home. Though the DGHS advises someone with mild cases of cold, sore throat or fever should not go to hospitals, the death statistics show many are remaining home with acute symptoms. These are being discovered after death.

“Aren’t the patients getting beds in the hospitals? Or are they reluctant to go to hospitals? Or no one is following the patients staying at home?”, asked Mushtaq Hussain, former chief scientific officer of (IEDCR).

He said it has become crucial to find answers to such questions.

On 7 June, additional director general of DGHS Nasima Sultana said among the 42 dead from the virus in last 24 hours, 30 died at hospitals and 12 at home. This shows 28 per cent deaths took place at home.

Earlier, on 2 June, Nasima Sultana said 9 among total 37 deaths in a day took place at home. This was 24 per cent among the total deaths.

DGHS, however, does not always publish the statistics of patients dying at home. No such count was disclosed during the regular health bulletin on 8 and 9 June.

According to a section of DGHS, about 20 per cent of the total deaths are taking place at home. The section has been trying to collect information regarding the deaths since 15 May. Officials at the section said 588 died of coronavirus between 15 May and 7 June. Among them, 453 died at hospital, 119 at home and 16 on road.

About the deaths at home, health expert Jamil Faisal said, “Many may delay to take the decision to go to hospital. They take the decision at the last moment and die on the way seeking treatment from one hospital to another. Many are forced to stay at home finding no beds at hospital.”

He said reasons of such deaths should be identified.

People receive advice on coronavirus calling at 333 or 16263 (Shastho Batayon), but they get confused over selection of hospitals or how to manage an ambulance. At the beginning of the outbreak, the Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) had assisted the patients at home, but it no longer offers the service.

It is the responsibility of the government to take care of those receiving treatment at home, Mushtaq Hussain said.

It was not possible for DGHS to oversee all the patients at home, said Jamil Faisal.

He also said steps have to be taken to engage the field level workers of the social welfare ministry as well as the local communities to to take care of coronavirus patients who are receiving treatment at home.

“We are going through a lot of experience,” said Abul Kalam Azad, director general of DGHS, adding that “We’re taking initiative to treat patients at home and decrease the deaths.”