Highlight: Reports are now delivered at 2pm to ensure patients have time to shift to other hospitals
We have received 169 children with Covid-19 at the Dhaka Shishu Hospital so far.
When the detection of Covid-19 began, a large number of child patients were referred from other healthcare facilities, such as the National Heart Foundation Hospital, to get PCR test reports.
We did not fear that the children would die of the novel coronavirus, but that their lives would be threatened if they were denied cancer treatment or an urgent medical intervention, such as an open-heart surgery.
Early instructions from the health authorities stipulated that no one without symptoms should be tested. I realised that those children would die without treatment and so I talked to the head of the microbiology department at the Shishu Hospital and the Directorate General of Health Services about the matter.
It was an additional workload to arrange tests, deliver the reports and follow up with patients. However, I am happy that we could provide them access to healthcare.
Most of the parents who came to the public hospital were from impoverished backgrounds, from villages. They hardly knew who to call or how to make an online appointment for a test.
In the last week of April, I opened a hotline number to receive calls between 8pm and 9pm to make appointments for sample collection the next day for external patients. Since there are more requests than can be managed, I talk extensively over the phone to decide who needs a test report urgently and who can wait.
A similar process is used for patients admitted to the hospital because one child might need immediate admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) while others can wait.
As Covid-19 broke out, healthcare providers failed to be empathetic towards patients, often due to a lack of preparedness. No one thought of how and where children with Covid-19 would get treatment. The test results would come around midnight and we immediately dispatched them to the respective wards to refer the patients to hospitals dedicated to treating the disease.
The parents were at a loss when they were asked to shift. Finding an ambulance and a seat at another facility at that hour was very difficult – something that had slipped our mind. Later, we decided to deliver reports by 2pm, though we were overwhelmed by the work because of the limited manpower.
The job of my department is to meet guardians before discharging a child who has tested positive. We talk to mothers, in person, to find out how the child might have been infected and to trace his or her contacts. In doing so, we cannot adhere to safety rules all the time, which is why infections in my department are rampant.
Until now, seven people working with me have fallen ill with the disease and gone into isolation.
Many doctors and healthcare workers have also been infected. Some of them worry about their elderly family members. We counsel them and try to provide all kinds of support to their families during this tumultuous period.
Keeping their motivation and morale up is crucial because they will return to work after recuperating and continue to serve patients at the hospital. I do not let any element of demotivation get in our way. My department follows up on them and manages their healthcare needs. I am responsible for coordinating everything – to see if they need hospital admission or ICU support and to communicate with other hospitals to facilitate that.
Every healthcare provider and supporting staff member is indispensable in this journey.
We felt like a storm was sweeping over us in March, April and May, with an immense workload and stress. In June, it felt as if we had become numb to it or, you may say, accustomed to it.
I have not met my wife and only daughter in the last four months. I get emotional when I speak with them over the phone, but I have realised that if I brood over my personal loss, I will not be able to continue my work.
At the end of the day, saving a life is what makes us happy.