When Covid-19 patients are dying every day without getting access to intensive care units (ICUs), five ICU beds at Dhaka Mohanagar General Hospital remain out of use owing to a shortage of manpower.
To help tackle an increasing pressure of critical coronavirus patients, the ICU beds were installed at the hospital in October last year and a high dependency unit (HDU) comprising 12 beds was set up in April this year. But, the ICU beds have been lying unused for over 10 months since their installation.
The 150-bed hospital in the Nayabazar area of Old Dhaka – run by Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) – served about 5,500 Covid patients as a Covid-dedicated facility from early March to mid September last year.
But, the hospital has not been treating Corona patients for over 10 months, even though the country is currently going through the gravest health emergency due to the fast-spreading Delta variant of the virus.
General patients are not coming to the hospital either, since it is known as a Covid-dedicated facility, the hospital authorities said, adding that there was also a shortage of medical equipment.
The acute shortage of manpower coupled with the indecision over whether to dedicate the hospital to Covid treatment has led to the facility being idle at a time when other hospitals are having to serve beyond capacity, they said.
The health directorate says the hospital is supervised by Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital, but the latter says it does not have the authority to hire manpower or launch new services at the hospital.
According to the hospital authorities, a final decision was made by the city corporation last week that the hospital will be providing treatment to general patients for the time being. Whether the hospital will be used as a Covid-dedicated facility will be decided later when there will be adequate staff, they added.
The hospital authorities say 90 staffers including 30 doctors, 35 nurses and other health workers were posted at the hospital during March-September last year when about 5,500 Corona patients were treated there.
At present, the hospital has 73 staff members, including 15 doctors and 11 nurses.
Since the beginning of the second wave of infections in the country in March this year, 110 beds have been prepared for patients following the instructions of the health directorate, but neither general nor Covid patients are being admitted to these beds.
During a visit to the hospital on Monday, The Business Standard saw patients getting outdoor treatment since morning. However, people coming to receive Covid vaccine were bigger in number.
The ICU beds that have been lying unused for over 10 months are regularly cleaned by the cleaning staff. On the other hand, the HDU beds were covered with dust.
Around 120 beds in the general unit and cabins were also found out of use. Many of those were found in decaying state.
Officials said only one patient was admitted on August 9 till noon while only 24 patients were being treated in the hospital.
A nurse at the hospital told TBS that the number of general patients coming to the hospital has been very few since the treatment of Covid patients was stopped.
According to the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) organogram (manpower structure), there are 166 posts at Dhaka Mohanagar General Hospital. Of 31 posts of doctors, only 15 are filled at present, while there are only 11 nurses against 36 posts and 6 of them are working on vaccination of Covid.
Although new ICUs have been set up, there is no manpower for their maintenance or operation. Although there is a modern operation theater, there is no surgeon. Only caesarean sections are done there.
Prakash Chandra Roy, director of Dhaka Mohanagar General Hospital, told TBS, "With our small manpower, we tried to provide best services during the first wave of Covid infections and we were successful as well. Of our nearly 500 admitted patients, only four died. Later, we sent manpower recruitment requisitions for approval about 6-7 times, but did not get any response from the health directorate."
Brigadier General Md Sharif Ahmed, chief health officer of the DSCC, told TBS now that the government has established a Covid field hospital at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University for the treatment of Corona patients, there is less possibility of recruiting manpower in the Mohanagar hospital for the time being. "Therefore, the treatment of general patients will continue in this hospital."
Professor Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director of the disease control at the DGHS, told TBS that the Covid hospital run by the Dhaka North City Corporation is doing very well because the hospital has been handed over to the health directorate.
No hospital in the country owned by the local government is doing well and the Mohanagar General Hospital is no exception, he observed.
He further said that it was irresponsible not to start the ICU even after 10 months of its establishment.
Mentioning that health officials coming from somewhere else do not want to stay in this hospital, he said, "For this, it has become urgent to hand over the hospital to the health directorate. Only then, the quality of service may improve here."
Prof Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the DGHS, said Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital has been assigned to oversee the overall functioning of Mohanagar Hospital, including the manpower issues. "They will coordinate among themselves and provide treatment to both Covid and non-Covid patients''
Disagreeing to Nasima's statement, Brigadier General Kazi Md Rashid Un Nabi, director of Sir Salimullah Medical College Mitford Hospital, told TBS, "Since Mohanagar General Hospital is not under the purview of the health directorate, we have been instructed to supervise the activities here. But, it is not in our hands to recruit manpower here.
"We only care about money and medical matters. The recruitment of new manpower and what will be the treatment here will be decided by the health Directorate."