The sudden surge in the number of diarrhoea and cholera patients in Bagerhat and Barishal has led to a crisis of intravenous saline in the two districts.
Private and public hospital officials and pharmacy owners say they are facing an acute crisis of this life-saving medicine as producing companies are failing to keep pace with the sudden high demand.
The number of patients is increasing every day and there were 30,586 patients in Barishal until Monday afternoon. In Bagerhat, more than 600 patients have been treated at various hospitals in the last week. Besides, more than 200 patients are still under treatment in different hospitals.
An upazila health and family planning officer in Barishal said they have around 100 diarrheal patients but do not have a single bag of saline. They ran out of saline when patients started rushing there in large numbers in the last four days.
He added that he was trying to purchase some bags of saline from medicine companies but failed to get any until Monday.
Bagerhat Civil Surgeon Dr KM Humayun Kabir said the incidence of waterborne diseases has increased as a result of drinking contaminated water amid drying up of pond water due to extreme heat and drought.
Al Mamun, a relative of a diarrheal patient in Bakerganj of Barishal, said he has been to several medicine shops for saline for his patient but found no saline.
Saifuzzaman, uncle of Mehedi Hasan, a patient admitted in Bagerhat Sadar Hospital from Morelganj upazila, said, "Mehedi was brought to the hospital as he was vomiting and discharging liquid faeces. I have been in the hospital for the last three days. I had to buy all the medicines from outside except one saline and two tablets, spending about Tk3,000. Poor patients are having a hard time buying medicines from outside."
Another patient named Rehna from the Kachua area in Barishal was admitted to the hospital last Wednesday and the hospital provided her only a single bag of intravenous saline.
"Five more saline bags were bought from drug stores outside. We are poor people and cannot afford to buy saline. Yet, we had to spend money to save her," said the patient's sister, Selina Begum.
Md Mirajul Karim, Resident Medical Officer of Bagerhat Sadar Hospital, said, "Around 25 patients are being admitted every day against four beds in our hospital. There has been a crisis in the supply of saline due to the sudden rush of patients. In the last week, we have provided medical services to more than 200 women, men, and children. There are still many patients admitted."
A medical promotion officer of Beximco Pharma told The Business Standard that pharmaceuticals could not anticipate this demand for saline and were not prepared for producing saline accordingly.
Rafiqul Islam, the owner of Sumon Medical Hall, the largest wholesale medicine shop in Barishal division, said he had the usual stock of saline but due to the sudden increase in demand, all the saline was sold out. He has not had a single bag of saline in the last three days.
Oditi Shawrna, the superintendent of drug administration in Barishal, said, "I have requested some pharmaceuticals to produce more saline urgently. Of these, Opso Saline Ltd confirmed they have doubled their usual production and a big lot will be supplied by Wednesday."
"I have been monitoring the medicine markets so that no one can take advantage of the crisis," she added.
Meanwhile, some generous persons have already donated some bags of saline to some hospitals.
Bashu Dev Kumar Das, director of the Barisal Divisional Health Office, said, "This year the number of patients is highest compared to recent years. A huge amount of saline has been allotted for the division and this should arrive by Tuesday."
Bagerhat District Civil Surgeon Dr KM Humayun Kabir said water in most areas of the coastal district is saline. The number of waterborne patients is constantly increasing as ponds dry up due to drought. In the last week, more than 600 patients have been treated at various health centres in the district. I hope people will be relieved from these diseases if it rains and they get pure water.