A 450-bed isolation unit at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital has been waiting to be inaugurated since it was readied in December last year, while hospitals in the eastern district continue struggling with a flood of Covid patients.
Osmani Medical College Hospital authorities said the unit on the third and fourth floors of the medical facility was fully ready but there was no oxygen supply system. The unit can be fully operational once a central oxygen line is installed.
Sylhet-1 lawmaker and also Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen sent a letter on 4 August to Health Minister Zahid Maleque asking for measures to be taken to open the isolation unit immediately.
According to the health directorate, the Covid infection rate in the district was 31.1% on 11 August.
There are only 250 general beds for coronavirus patients at Sylhet Sahid Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital and Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital. There are another 200 beds at private medical facilities in the district, but currently all the hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.
With the virus rampaging through the district, Sylhet City Corporation proposed setting a central oxygen line to the isolation unit two months ago, but the health ministry has not responded to that.
Dr Himanshu Lal Roy, director at the Sylhet division health directorate, said, "We have sent multiple letters to the health ministry [in Dhaka] since January, seeking the central oxygen line. The foreign minister has been trying too. We hope the line will be installed soon."
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, adviser to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control & Research (IEDCR), told The Business Standard on Wednesday, that to rein in infections and deaths, Covid patients with mild symptoms too would have to be under a doctor's supervision even if it was via telemedicine.
"Instead of increasing hospital capacity, we now need to set up more isolation centres where patients with mild symptoms can get treatment," he noted.
Mahbubul Alam, deputy director of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College, said the oxygen line would cost around Tk4 crore, and initiatives had been taken to install it.
Ariful Haque Choudhury, mayor of Sylhet City Corporation, said, "The foreign minister himself has spoken to the health ministry about the issue. I also wrote to the health authorities, but to no avail."