Nearly 5,000 doctors in Chattogram have stopped seeing new patients with flu, fever or breathing complications, pointing a finger at the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The fact that a doctor got infected with Covid-19 at Delta Hospital in Dhaka when treating a coronavirus patient has stroked their fear further. Physicians at private hospitals have totally stopped treating patients who appear with symptoms that are similar to those of coronavirus, while government hospital doctors also say that they are also in fear.
Dr Sarwar Kamal, the head of the cardiology department at the Chattogram Metropolitan Hospital, said duty without PPE is synonymous to suicide, and the Delta Hospital infection is the example.
"Moreover, patients are also not safe from them [doctors without protective gear]." He added.
Dr Kamal said a patient appeared at his chamber with a "home quarantine seal" on his hand. Later, the hospital cleaned the whole compound including the lift the patient used.
"The incident resulted in panic spreading rapidly, and since then many of my colleagues are not coming to their chambers," added the doctor.
Dr AK Bosak sees patients at the Chattogram Popular Diagnostic Center which is in front of Chattogram Medical College Hospital (CMCH). The former physician of the CMCH has hung a notice on the door of his private chamber which says – no patient is allowed in with fever, flu or breathing complications.
Most of the doctors in the port city have pasted similar notices on their doors at private hospitals and chambers. They have also instructed their assistants not to allow-in any patient with Covid-19 like symptoms.
"Those notices have been put up because there is no way to differentiate a normal flu from a coronavirus case without doing a test. Without ensuring the safety of physicians, providing medical care is impossible," said Dr Liakat Ali Khan, general secretary of the Chattogram Private Hospitals and Lab Owners Association.
"We, the private hospitals do not have any testing facilities," said Dr Liakat adding, "Government hospitals only will treat coronavirus cases."
In the meantime, the managing director of a widely known private hospital in the port city preferring anonymity told The Business Standard that they have imposed an official restriction on admitting patients with coronavirus-like symptoms.
Medical Centre physician Dr Moniruzzaman and Panchlaish doctor Simanta Waddedar also told The Business Standard that they have stopped seeing patients with flu and fever.
Arif works as a doctor's assistant at CSCR Hospital, which is at the Prabartak intersection in Chattogram. He told The Business Standard, "My boss has asked me not to take any patients with flu. I am now taking the medical history of the patients prior to giving appointments."
Meanwhile, people say doctors are pushing them away when they need medical care the most.
"The doctors can treat us by wearing protective gear. But they have totally stopped medical treatment. It is inhumane as many people are being denied minimum treatment," said a bank official named Asaduzzaman Helal.
Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said it is totally up to the doctors whether they see flu patients or not.
"We have asked patients to go to government hospitals if they develop any corona-like symptom," he added.
According to the Chattogram unit of the Bangladesh Medical Association, there are nearly 5,000 registered physicians in the port city. The civil surgeon's office says the port city has 504 registered private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres.
No person has tested positive to the coronavirus in Chattogram till Monday. However, more than 1,000 people in the port city have been placed under home quarantine.
A total of 150 beds in two government hospitals have been prepared for coronavirus cases.