A physician at the Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital -- Dr Mahmudunnaby Tonmoy came to work carrying some essentials and clothes in a backpack at 8am on Thursday.
After pulling back-to-back shifts spanning 18 hours and returning home after 2am, he will go back to the hospital at 8am the next day.
Dr Tonmoy -- who works at the hospital’s medicine department -- has been working more than 16 hours a day, seven days a week ever since dengue outbreak escalated this year. He is working without a leave of absence for the past 45 days.
After a night shift, medical professionals are not usually given a morning shift the next day, but the outbreak has left doctors, nurses and other staff with no option but to scrap the unwritten rule.
The constant overtime without leaves and weekly day offs has left many medical professionals on the verge of breakdown, while some have gotten ill themselves after dealing with the ever increasing wave of patients.
“We [the doctors] are a bit exhausted after working this way for around two and a half months. We have to work 13-14 hours every day in this hot weather and many of us have gotten ill. We can barely spend time with our families. They have been missing us and remain concerned about us,” Dr Tonmoy told The Business Standard.
He added that on many occasions the doctors have to send pictures of the hospital ward to make the family members aware of how busy they are.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Rajib De Sarker, registrar of the Surgery Department at Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital said: “The patients, who needed follow ups two-three times a day, now need ten-twelve follow ups daily.
“Treatment plans have to be changed several times per day and documents are required to be updated accordingly. Patients now need three to four times more attention from us.”
Alongside the senior physicians, intern doctors are also working extra hours without any day offs.
Normally, an intern doctor works from 8am to 2:30pm, but now they are performing evening and night duties too. The extra work comes with no financial incentives whatsoever.
Hridita Ashraf -- an intern doctor -- has been treating dengue patients since June this year. She has been working from 8am to 5pm every day of the week for the past four weeks. Hridita missed out on her Eid holidays.
“We work under the supervision of senior doctors. Many are falling ill due to working long hours in hot weather. One of my batch mates has gotten dengue fever,” she said.
Nurses from different specialized hospitals are being deployed in government hospitals to handle the dengue outbreak. Just as the doctors, the nurses have also been working longer shifts without weekly day offs and leaves due to the influx of dengue patients.
Linda Olive, a senior nurse at Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital said: “The number of indoor patients at the Children’s Ward has increased from 50-60 to 150-200. Many nurses are not getting weekly day offs due to the work pressure.
“A nurse at the next ward is now under treatment at the ICU after being infected by dengue.”
Dengue cases increased in the capital at the start of the monsoon around June this year. The number of dengue patients in August has exceeded the total number of patients last year.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), a total of 59,592 dengue patients were admitted into different hospitals since January this year. Among them, 41,131 were admitted in the first 22 days of August.
So far, 6,147 dengue patients are being treated as indoor patients in different hospitals across the country.
Doctors, nurses and interns from several hospitals in Dhaka told The Business Standard that they are exhausted from working every day for two and a half months. Several medical professionals have fallen unconscious while on duty because of the influx of patients and hot weather.
Many doctors and nurses are getting dengue fever and a number of medical professionals have lost their lives.
According to sources from the DGHS, 94 doctors, 130 nurses and 76 health assistants have been infected with dengue fever so far. Presently, 6 doctors, 11 nurses and 4 health assistants with dengue fever are undergoing treatment at different hospitals.
This year, a civil surgeon, 7 doctors and 2 nurses have died of dengue as yet.
“The physicians, nurses and lab technicians have been working tirelessly to treat dengue patients. This is a national crisis and we have to face it together,” said Prof Uttam Kumar Barua, director of Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital.