Parveen Akhter Chowdhury, 59, was admitted to the emergency department of the 250-bed Habiganj Sadar Adhunik Hospital with breathing problems. After much effort, her relatives could arrange oxygen supply for her.
However, after less than 10 minutes, another patient arrived at the hospital with severe shortness of breath. The oxygen tube was given over to him.
Not only oxygen but there is also a crisis for other medical equipment in the Sadar Adhunik Hospital.
Though the Bangla word "Adhunik" means "modern", the hospital does not have the required manpower and equipment.
As a result, doctors, nurses and other staff have been struggling to provide services for patients. Most of the people from the district have to go to either Sylhet or Dhaka for treatment.
According to the hospital superintendent's office, the 100-bed hospital was upgraded to 250 beds in response to the demand of the people of the district in July 2017. The construction of the new eight-storey building cost around Tk45 crore. In June that year, a total of 20 new posts for doctors and 38 for others were created in the hospital, but those have not been filled yet due to bureaucratic complications.
In May, there were 24 doctors and 87 nurses against 40 posts for doctors and 141 for nurses. It is mentionable that two out of eight medical officers are attached to Habiganj Sheikh Hasina Medical College. Besides, the medical officer (Ayurveda) is in Narsingdi Hospital on deputation.
The posts of senior consultant, junior consultant ophthalmologist, anaesthetist, pathologist, radiologist, six medical officers, two emergency medical officers, two medical officers (blood) and health education officer are vacant too.
Besides, there are 27 vacant posts for senior staff nurses, staff nurses, assistant nurses, pharmacists, and 21 technologists in the department of dentistry, laboratory, radiology, physiology, EPI, ECG, anaesthesia, dialysis, biomedical and ecology.
Although the new building of the hospital was constructed at almost Tk50 crore, there has been no visible and significant improvement. In this pandemic of Covid-19, patients still have to stay on the floor in the old building due to a lack of beds. Bathrooms and toilets have become unusable.
Habiganj Sheikh Hasina Medical College has been operating on the second and third floors of the eight-storey building since 2016. This two-story hospital was designated as the general ward.
The fifth floor is being used as a paediatrics ward and the sixth and seventh floors are being used as Covid-19 ward. The ground floor is being used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre. The rest of the floors are unused. Although the number of Covid-19 patients is increasing day by day, the central oxygen plant is not yet fully operational.
Residential Medical Officer of the hospital Dr Momin Uddin Chowdhury said till 30 July, 50 were Covid-19 positive in the hospital and 25 were in isolation. A new digital X-ray machine has been installed, but its activities are currently closed due to a lack of film.
Wahidul Islam, the executive engineer of the public works department, said the lift was set up for six floors. Later it was extended to two more floors. There are some technical problems. Hospital authorities were asked to recruit a liftman, which they have not done yet.
Advocate Trilok Kanti Chowdhury Bijan, president of Habiganj branch of Citizens for Good Governance (SHUJAN) said the hospital does not provide any treatment. Doctors are there only to refer patients to Dhaka or Sylhet. Unless the crisis of medical equipment including oxygen is solved, the hospital is useless.
Habiganj Civil Surgeon Mostafizur Rahman told The Business Standard an organisation called Spectra provides oxygen throughout the country. In the current situation, the oxygen demand is increasing in all hospitals in the country and they are not able to supply oxygen in time.