As Bangladesh is already under tremendous pressure to cope with the coronavirus outbreak with inadequate doctors and nurses, experts warned that the country cannot afford to lose health professionals to coronavirus only for lack of necessary protective measures and collective efforts.
They said over 400 health workers, mostly doctors, have already been infected with Covid-19 while a physician of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital (SOMCH) Dr Moyeen Uddin died while serving patients.
According to Bangladesh Doctors Foundation (BDF), a forum of physicians, 324 physicians -- both at private and public hospitals -- have so far been infected with the deadly virus as of Saturday.
Taking to UNB, Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Prof Kanak Kanti Barua, Principal of Dhaka Medical College Prof Khan Abul Kalam Azad, President of Swadhinata Chikitsak Parishad Dr Iqbal Arsenal, President of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Dr Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin said health professional need high quality personal safety gears, social security and safe accommodation and quality food at this moment to effectively fight coronavirus as frontline warriors.
According to the last health bulletin published by the Health Ministry, the country has only six doctors, nurses, and midwives for every 10,000 population.
Prof Kanak Kanti said doctors are still not given quality personal protective equipment, including standard gowns and masks. “Doctors didn’t get N-95 equivalent masks to protect themselves from the virus. The gowns they were given also of poor quality. Using this substandard equipment, they can’t prevent the virus infection.”
He said the number of corona patients is growing every day alarmingly putting a serious strain on the country’s overburdened medical system. “If we can’t protect our doctors, we’re unlikely to get doctors and nurses to serve patients when the virus will take a serious turn. We must provide our all health workers with quality protective gears and ensure their safe accommodation and access to quality food.”
Citing his hospital’s experience, the BSMMU VC said he finds it difficult to make duty rosters of doctors as physicians 50 years of age or above who have comorbidities cannot be given the duty now. “I’m forced to keep them out of duty thinking about their safety. Besides, we’re bound to send some doctors to quarantine after working for 7-10 days. “If our doctors who are now doing duty get infected, how’ll we run the hospital and give people service.”
Prof Khan Abul Kalam Azad said some doctors and nurses have contracted the virus for many reasons, including patients’ tendency to hide their medical history and symptoms of corona virus.
Besides, he said, many nurses stay at their homes together with many family members in a congested atmosphere and they come to hospitals by public transports and thus they get infected with the virus and transmit it to doctors. “Nurses are less aware about protecting themselves from the virus.”
Khan said people having corona symptoms should go to the hospitals designated for the treatment and undergo test. “No visitor or attendant should be allowed to enter a hospital unless it is very urgent. People are flouting the rules of social distancing and lockdown. It should be enforced strictly by law enforcers.”
The DMCH principal said the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has already issued a circular about keeping the doctors and nurses under the government’s arrangement after their duty instead of allowing them to go home. “It should be implemented immediately. A doctor or nurse must be sent to institutional quarantine after working for 7-10 days. “Our health system will collapse and people won’t get treatment if our health workers continue to get infected with the virus.”
Dr Iqbal Arsenal said there are around 1,00,000 MBBS doctors and dentists registered with the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council, the regulatory body for doctors, and medical education.
Of them, around 70,000 are in service or in practice while others are either doing business or involved with some other jobs or have died.
Among the 70,000 practising physicians, Dr Iqbal said about 30,000 are currently employed with government facilities and around 3,000 of them involved with administrative jobs. “Under such a grim scenario, it’s very frightening that the list of corona-infected doctors is getting bigger. It’s also a matter of concern that most physicians are contracting the virus at non-Covid-19 hospitals and mostly in Dhaka.”
He said doctors should become more careful and take all precautionary measures in dealing with the patients. They also should know how to safely put on PPE and put off it and the masks, and dispose off those. We’ll face a dire consequence, if we can’t protect our doctors and health workers from the virus infection.”
Dr Iqbal said every hospital should declare a portion of their space as a red zone, and the rest as a green zone. “They’ll have to send the suspected patients to the red zone and take steps for their quick Covid-19 test.”
Dr Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin said many health workers, mostly doctors, have so far been infected with the virus while treating patients. “The main reason behind it is that the PPEs they were given not up to the mark.”
Besides, 15 hospitals were locked down to stop the spread of the virus. “These’re very bad news indeed for us. We should now make sincere efforts to protect our health workers. Or else, we’ll face a serious trouble if the corona situation deteriorates further.”
“We’ve many interns and fifth-year students at all the medical colleges whom we can now immediately train so that they can treat patients in the case of any crisis of physicians as we don’t know how many of our doctors will get infected and how long this virus will persist,” the BMA president said.