The number of Covid patients, detection rate, and deaths have been increasing in Chattogram since the beginning of this month, intensifying the need for intensive care. At present, no ICU bed is available in any of the 10 public and private hospitals in the port city.
People are watching their loved ones die, as the oxygen saturation level of the patients plummets.
In the last 24 hours, 3,389 samples were tested in 10 diagnostic centres of the district and 1,310 infections were detected, the highest ever in a day at 38.65% infection rate, in Chattogram district.
Eighteen people died of Covid-19 during the time, 11 of whom were from rural areas, said Chattogram Civil Surgeon Sheikh Fazle Rabbi, adding that 53 Covid patients had died in the last five days.
Mirsarai Municipality Councillor Rizia Begum, 46, and her sister Nur Nahar, 55, were being treated in the ICU of Chattogram General Hospital. The sisters died only 16 hours apart.
Rizia and Nur are two of 215 people who died in Chattogram this month.
Relatives of many patients wait for a bed to become vacant, so they can admit their dear ones.
There are heartbreaking scenes outside the ICU rooms of Chattogram hospitals. On average, relatives of 12 to 15 patients wait for an ICU bed.
Recently, Abdul Gani came to Chattogram from Noakhali for treatment of fever and cold. Arriving in Chattogram, his relatives first took him to Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital. As there was no vacant bed with oxygen supply, he was taken to Chattogram General Hospital. At that time his oxygen saturation was hovering between 40-60.
His relatives could not manage any ICU bed for two days, even with the help of the district civil surgeon. When a patient died at the hospital, the bed was given to Abdul Gani.
Abdul Gani later succumbed to Covid-19.
A doctor at Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital told TBS on condition of anonymity that his mother had been admitted there after she had contracted the virus. She needed an ICU bed, but he could not manage an ICU bed for his mother at his workplace.
She was later admitted to the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases where she died.
Civil Surgeon Sheikh Fazle Rabbi said, out of 11 districts of Chattogram division, Chattogram city has the highest Covid-19 detection and death rates. Covid-19 patients from other district towns are also being admitted to various government and private hospitals in the city, which only magnified the crisis.
However, as most patients are receiving treatment at home, some general beds (not ICU beds) in the hospitals are still vacant.
According to the civil surgeon's office, till Tuesday (27 July), government hospitals in Chattogram have admitted 494 patients against 1,144 seats, while private hospitals have admitted 856 patients against 2,718 seats. There are 43 ICU beds in government hospitals and 119 in private hospitals.
However, there is no information about how many ICU beds are vacant out of a total of 157 in Chattogram.
Chattogram Medical College Hospital Director, Brigadier General SM Humayun Kabir, said, "There is no ICU bed in the hospital at the moment but many patients need ICU attention. Still, we are trying to treat patients in the corridors and verandas of the hospital. In addition, due to the abnormal rise in Covid-19 infections, hospital admissions and routine operation activities have been stopped. However, emergency patient admissions and surgery are ongoing."
Chattogram General Hospital Senior Consultant, Abdur Rauf, said that on Monday, 15 out of 18 ICU beds were occupied in the hospital. The other three ICU beds are currently broken."
Chattogram Maa-O-Shishu Hospital's Covid-19 Unit Senior Medical Officer, Dr Mahmuda Sultana, said there are 11 ICU beds for Covid-19 patients there but all are occupied. Even the 101 general beds are full of patients too.
The city's Holy Crescent Hospital has six ICU beds and 100 general beds for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Railway Chest Disease Hospital has 60 general beds, but only a few patients are admitted here due to a shortage of manpower and equipment.
Among the private hospitals, Parkview Hospital has eight ICUs and 37 general beds, National Hospital has eight ICUs and 18 general beds, Metropolitan Hospital has five ICUs and 28 general beds and Max Hospital has five general ICUs and 30 general beds.
Around 26 hospitals in Chattogram have a central oxygen system. There are 171 high flow nasal cannulas. Of these, there are 47 in government hospitals. Of the 80 oxygen concentrators, the government hospitals have 56.
People concerned said these are too inadequate to meet the current demand.
The situation in the villages is also rapidly deteriorating
In Chattogram, the number of deaths due to Covid-19 is higher in rural areas than in urban areas. In the last 27 days, 215 people have died of Covid-19 in Chattogram, of which 135 are residents of 14 upazilas (villages) of the district.
The death rate in the upazilas is 62.79% . Earlier, the death rate in the city was 60.98% and 39.2% in villages.
In the last 15 months, out of 14 upazilas of Chattogram, 77 people died in Hathazari. The city's second-highest death toll was 74 in Halishahar.
Around 55.29% of the deceased were over 61 years old. The mortality rate among 51-60-year olds was 23.52%, 41-50-year olds, 13.15%, and for youth (21-40 years) it was 6.75%.
"Awareness is high among residents of the city. Village folk follow the hygiene rules less. Besides, a large number of workers have come from North Bengal to work in the Aman paddy fields during the current monsoon. I think this is the reason why the Delta variant has spread in the upazilas," said Sheikh Fazle Rabbi.