As hospitals across the country are running out of beds to meet the increasing demand for medical care of Covid-19 patients, the government is readying the Dhaka North City Corporation kitchen market as the country's largest coronavirus care facility.
The makeshift facility with 1,000 general, 100 incentive care unit (ICU) and 122 high dependency unit (HDU) beds is expected to open its door to patients, although partially, next week.
The authorities have already completed the infrastructure work and set up machineries, while the process to recruit doctors, nurses and other employees for running the hospital is underway.
Brigadier General AKM Nasir Uddin, director of the hospital, on Sunday told The Business Standard that they were working to start the operation of the hospital in the following week to support the surges in demand for care.
"It will be the largest Covid-19 dedicated hospital (in the country) in terms of general and ICU beds," he said.
"We will start the operation partially with 250 general and 15 ICU seats. The ICU beds will be increased to 50 by 22 April. We will be able to operate it fully within a short time," he further added.
The hospital authorities need 250 doctors and 500 nurses to operate the hospital at full capacity.
Health ministry sources said doctors, health workers and administrative officials will be appointed from the armed forces and the Directorate General of Health Services jointly.
The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has given the building while the armed forces will coordinate the overall activities with the assistance of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The armed forces will ensure all kinds of administrative, managerial and security issues relating to the hospital.
Md Selim Reza, chief executive officer of the DNCC, told TBS that the city corporation had planned to shift the Karwan Bazar wholesale vegetable market to the newly-built Mohakhali DNCC market, but made it as isolation centre in the wake of the surge in COvid-19 cases.
"The DNCC has provided the land and the market. It will not provide any other support," he said.
Rasheda Akther, additional secretary of the health ministry, told TBS that the Directorate General of Health Services will send a proposal for allocating fund for the project soon. "The actual expenditure is yet to be decided," she said.
Professor Dr Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a noted virologist, told TBS that patients are suffering from ICU crisis so it will be good, if the makeshift hospital can ensure ICU facilities.
He also underlined the importance of the health ministry's supervision in running the hospital.
There are 2,555 general and 128 ICU beds at government hospitals, and 772 general and 180 ICU beds at private hospitals in Dhaka city.
On 8 March last year, the health authorities in Bangladesh reported the first cases of Covid-19. Ten days later, the country recorded the maiden fatality from the novel coronavirus.
The DNCC turned the market into an isolation centre last year for overseas air passengers.
Bangladesh on Sunday reported 7,087 new cases – the highest since the pandemic hit the country in March last year.
Mentionable, a 2,000-bed Covid dedicated makeshift hospital at Bashundhara Convention Centre was inaugurated on May 17 last year. But it had no ICU facilities. Later, its operation was stopped.
Meanwhile, the DNCC sources said they have a plan to set up another 300-bed specialised hospital with a 50-bed intensive care unit on the fifth floor of the market.
The World Health Organisation will provide financial support to the project.