Twenty-four percent of healthcare workers in Bangladesh are yet to receive personal protective equipment (PPE), and 44 percent of those who have PPE are not satisfied with the quality.
Brac University's James P Grant School of Public Health and the Bangladesh Health Watch (BHW) made the announcement during the unveiling of the findings of two researches on PPE and health financing in an online media briefing on Saturday.
Seventy-six percent of healthcare workers currently have PPE, but only 56 percent of them are satisfied with the quality, the report pointed out.
A previous survey, conducted jointly by the same two organisations from March to April this year, had revealed that 25 percent of doctors and nurses, and around 60 percent of support staff engaged in treating Covid-19 patients lacked any PPE.
Of the two latest researches, one is titled "Re-visiting the front line health workers (FLW) attending to suspected or confirmed Covid-19 patients in Bangladesh: How far has the situation improved in a month [April to May] since the last survey?"
The study revealed that overall, 24 percent of the respondents (23.1% physicians with a MBBS degree), 0% post-graduate physicians, 50% nurses and midwives and 12.5% paramedics) still did not receive PPE at the time of re-interview in May.
However, there has been some improvement in the supply of PPE, especially among the paramedics, compared to the earlier survey conducted in April.
Initially, a Rapid Telephone Survey was conducted from April 9-14 to elicit the perceptions of the FLWs who were directly involved with the management of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in different public and private healthcare facilities in Bangladesh.
Re-interview was conducted during May 5-11 with 46 respondents (out of 60 originally interviewed) on the relevant issues.
There has been some improvement in arranging accommodation, food, and transportation for the doctors, but not to the extent necessary, and not for the other FLWs.
More than two months into the epidemic (since the identification of the first case of Covid-19 on March 8) have passed, but there is still inadequate training on treating the Covid-19 disease itself and its management, as well as the use of PPE, especially for nurses/midwives and paramedics.
Presenting the study findings, Dr Bushra Zarin Islam – one of the research team members– said, "The situation did not improve much with respect to the quality of the PPE supplied and its proper use due to lack of training, as stated by the FLWs.
"These factors together did little to alleviate the mental health issues of different categories of the FLWs, especially for doctors. This in itself is going to be a big public health problem, now and post-Covid-19.
Dr Islam serves as a senior research associate in the BRAC James P Grant School of Public Health of BRAC University.
Another research, titled "Different Aspects of Health Financing of Covid-19 Response," stated that the current allocation to the health sector only addresses short-term, immediate need with less attention on long-term, sustainable investments for comprehensive Covid-19 management.
Addressing the event, former director general of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr Shah Monir Hossain said, "PPE quality verification, and monitoring of where the budgeted money is being spent is very important. But there is no such monitoring cell in the health department."
Responding to queries about the research findings, Joint Secretary of the DGHS Covid Control Room, Dr Rizwanul Karim said, "The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended the rational use of the PPE, and we are following this recommendation.
"The researchers should specify what type of PPE the health workers did not receive. Did they get masks, gloves or none at all?"
The online event was moderated by BHW Convener Dr Mushtaque Chowdhury, and attended by Professor Dr Shah Monir Hossain, Professor Dr Abul Faiz, Dr Moudud Hossain and Dr Iqbal Anwar.
Dr AJ Faisel, government appointed divisional advisor on Covid-19, was also present at the programme.