The number of patients admitted to hospitals in the port city of Chattogram have dropped – by nearly half – as people fear they will become infected with coronavirus from others at the healthcare facilities.
Usually, thousands of patients, from 11 districts of Chattogram division, rush to the Chittagong Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) to be admitted, every day. The 1,300-bed CMCH admits 2,500-3,000 patients per day, on average, during regular times. However, the number slipped by 38 percent to 1,886 over the last month.
Surprised by the sharp fall in the number of patients, CMCH said that people with serious issues like cardiac disease, cancer and kidney problems are currently coming to the hospital.
"Patient admission to the CMCH has dropped to almost half," said CMCH Director Brigadier General SM Humayun Kabir.
"Previously, patients with general health issues were admitted to the hospital. However, currently, fewer patients with those issues are coming to the hospital," he said, adding, "the hospital admission rate may fall further."
Meanwhile, "Patients currently undergoing treatment are seeking to be discharged as rapidly as possible as coronavirus has stroked fears among them," said Dr Shyla Tasnuva, CMCH medicine department physician.
Doctors said the number of patients' attendants at the hospitals also dropped significantly.
CMCH nurses said that the fall in numbers of patients has eased their regular workload.
CMCH staff nurse Sadek Hosen said they have to work more than the roster states due to a staffing shortage. Though lower patient admissions are providing some relief to them, they also fear they will contract the virus.
While the nurses are enjoying a brief relief from work pressure, the discharge section of the CMCH is busy.
"Usually 300 to 400 patients leave the hospital every day. The number has soared to 500-600 now – riding on fear among the patients that they will become infected with the virus if they stay," says the hospital discharge section ward master Dr Rajib Kumar Dey.
In the meantime, private hospitals in the port city have also seen a decline in the number of patients.
"Only government hospitals will treat coronavirus cases. Private hospitals are not treating any patients with flu, fever or breathing complications – symptoms similar to those of Covid-19. Therefore, the number of patients at private clinics has declined," said Pulak Pariyal, general manager of Chevron Clinical Laboratory at Panchlaish area of Chattogram.
The decline in the number of patients at hospitals has dragged down the sales of pharmacies, labs and diagnostic centres surrounding those healthcare facilities.
"Our sales edged down to almost half. People are looking for masks and hand sanitiser, but these items are in poor supply," said Mohammad Saifuddin, owner of a surgical item store adjacent to the CMCH.
General Secretary of the Chattogram Private Hospital and Lab Owners Union Dr Liakat Ali Khan told The Business Standard that the fear of coronavirus has frozen the surgical instrument business and diagnostics.
He claimed that sales of the diagnostic centres dropped by 50 to 60 percent as people are only going to hospitals in cases of emergency.