According to the hospital authorities, five letters have been sent to the health ministry and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in between March and July for the recruitment of the required manpower to start the operations of the ICUs and the HDUs in the hospital. However, there was no response. Therefore the ICUs are lying unused even in this time of crisis.

Dhaka Metropolitan General Hospital in the capital’s Nayabazar area has 150 beds in total. Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) is in charge of this hospital. After the emergence of the coronavirus in the country in March last year, the hospital authority cancelled their regular medical services and started treating only Covid patients. However, there was no ICU in the hospital at the time.

According to the hospital authorities, around five and a half thousand Covid patients were treated at the hospital in between March and September last year. A total of 90 people were recruited that time, including 30 physicians, 35 nurses and other health workers. Apart from that, the hospital has its own manpower of 106 staff. Among them 19 are physicians and 10 are nurses.

Since the emergence of the second wave pandemic in the country in March this year, 110 beds have been prepared following the instructions of the health directorate. General patients are not being admitted to these beds.

Public health experts say it is clear that the reason behind the failure to start the ICU services despite setting it up eight months earlier is the negligence of the DGHS. As there is no accountability, the ICUs in the hospital have been left unused despite the on-going crisis amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In this regard, Nasima Sultana, additional director general and spokesperson of DGHS, told Prothom Alo that they are supplying manpower all over the country for the treatment of the Covid patients. Dhaka Metropolitan General Hospital would also get the required manpower. The matter is under process.

As the transmission of coronavirus is increasing in the country, so is the pressure of patients at the ICUs in the government hospitals. According to DGHS, there was no empty ICU bed in 11 of the 16 Covid dedicated hospitals in the capital on Wednesday.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Prakash Chandra Roy, director of Dhaka Metropolitan General Hospital, said they want to start treating coronavirus patients. Despite repeatedly informing the DGHS about the required manpower, they are not getting any response.

He further said they have asked for 25 physicians, six consultants, 30 nurses, eight anaesthetists, six medical specialists, 24 cleaners, 16 ward boys, two computer operators and six technologists (four in lab and two in radiology unit) to provide the Covid patients with necessary medical services and treatment. However, the health ministry and the DGHS are yet to respond.

According to the city corporation's organogram, Dhaka Metropolitan General Hospital should have a manpower of 164 people. But at present, there are 106 people in total. It would not be possible to provide treatment to coronavirus patients with the existing manpower. If they get the manpower they asked for, they would be able to provide medical services to 50 to 60 beds for the time being.

Officials and workers of the hospital say due to the instructions from the directorate regarding the coronavirus patients, they are not being able to admit the general patients. It has created a dilemma. A specific decision needs to be taken immediately that either the hospital would treat the Covid patients only, or it would be open for other general patients.

The public health experts say the health minister and secretary are looking for new places for the treatment of coronavirus patients where a hospital in the capital is left unused which has both the ICU and the HDU facilities. Why this hospital is not being used despite that, is beyond understanding.

Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director of the disease control unit of the DGHS, told Prothom Alo that the government is considering field hospitals. Manpower would be needed there too. Then what is the problem in supplying the required manpower to Dhaka Metropolitan General Hospital?

Already the hospital under the North City Corporation started its operation with sufficient manpower. Why not the hospital under the South City Corporation? A large number of people live on the other side of Buriganga in the Keraniganj area. If the general hospital is converted into a covid dedicated hospital, people of Old Dhaka, including the people of Keraniganj, would get the privileges. Failure to start operating eight months after setting up the ICUs points to the irresponsibility of the concerned officials and departments.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu

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