The bone-chilling cold has been taking a toll on locals in Noakhali district, with thousands suffering from various cold-induced illnesses, including pneumonia.
Children have been hit especially hard in the district as some 15 babies have already succumbed to pneumonia, while hundreds more are being treated in different hospitals.
Hospitals in the district were apparently not prepared for the unanticipated increase in cold-related illnesses, which finally translated into a bed crisis in hospitals and disrupted medical services.
The district, including its coastal areas, has been experiencing heavy cold since the start of winter. Different diseases, like runny nose, cough, diarrhea, pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, COPD, respiratory problem, pneumonia, are going hand in hand with the cold.
During a visit to the Noakhali General Hospital, it was discovered that their children's ward had double their slated capacity of patients.
A good number of children were being treated in the corridors and floors. Most were aged 3 or younger and had been admitted for six to seven days.
Patients are also currently undergoing a severe medicine crisis at the hospital. Due to the failure of hospital authorities to provide essential medicines, patients are now desperately collecting them from external pharmacies, creating a huge financial burden on the marginalized patients.
Relatives of several patients have accused hospital authorities of negligence.
A guardian said he had admitted his one-year-old daughter to the hospital with diarrhea three days ago. Since then, she had been treated on the floor and had received no medicine from the hospital.
The guardian bought some medicines from an external pharmacy, which ended up costing more.
There are also allegations that pediatricians often do not see patients. Rather, medical service is dependent on interns and nurses of Abdul Malek Ukil Medical College and Hospital and The Medical Assistant Training School (The MATS) of the district.
Nurse in-charge Anwara Begum said 35 to 40 children are being admitted everyday with diarrhea and cold-related ailments. Metro, Cipro and Chlora saline are among the medicines currently out of stock at the hospital.
Kamal Uddin, in-charge of the children's ward, said they are struggling to ensure proper medical service due to a spike in patient numbers.
So far in February, 128 children have been admitted to his ward with various cold-related ailments, he said, adding that some 15 children had died since December.
Noting that children were frequently infected with pneumonia and diarrhea in the winter season, Dr Yaqub Ali Munshi, a pediatrician at the hospital, urged all to remain conscious and adopt safety measures.
"Such diseases spread quite quickly because they are water-borne. Their parents and caregivers should be more careful during the winter season. They should ensure that the home is well-protected from the cold, as well as adequate lighting and ventilation," he said.
However, according to Syed Mohiuddin Abdul Azim, a resident medical officer at the Noakhali General Hospital, the hospital has 30 beds in two wards, which are now exceeding capacity.
Nurul Amin, the hospital caretaker said there was no diarrhea saline in the ward for two days.
However, he declined to comment on the shortage of other medicines, including cholera saline, cipro and metro.
He also provided assurances that action would be taken in the event of a genuine medicine crisis.