There is an extreme shortage of ICU (Intensive Care Unit) beds in both public and private hospitals across the country. Many patients are even dying for the lack of enough ICU facilities. Amid this, the coronavirus has appeared in the scene, making the situation more complex.
At such a critical time, the equipment purchased to set up a 10-bed ICU in Dhaka Shishu Hospital is spoiling. The work that began early last year has been halted for six months.
Negligence and indifference have led to the hold-up in the project, according to people concerned.
Experts demand that the construction of the ICUs be completed immediately.
Recently, a writ petition was filed at the High Court seeking its order on the inactivity of the government in setting up central monitoring systems and ICUs in public hospitals across the country.
The petition was filed by Dr Abdullah Al Mamun, deputy registrar of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University. His lawyer was Yadia Zaman.
In light of that petition, the court wanted to know from the government about the central monitoring system and the number of ICUs across the country.
On June 10 last, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) submitted a report to the High Court, in which it said there are now 733 ICU beds in government hospitals countrywide. Up to February last, the government set up 17 hospitals for the treatment of coronavirus. During this period, 233 ICU beds were prepared.
Lawyer Yadia Zaman said a part of that report said a 10-bed ICU was being set up at Dhaka Shishu Hospital. The project titled "Advanced Paediatric Surgery and Stem Cell Therapy" began under the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Under the Tk70-crore project, the ICU is being set up in the extended part of Dhaka Shishu Hospital. There is also an operation theatre, a post-operative ward and an HDU unit.
Dr Zahirul Islam Liton, ICU head of the hospital, said, "We have no information about this. Nor do we have any documents. But, it would be useful if we could start it at the time of Covid-19."
He also said if the equipment is left this way for some more time, it will become useless.
Dhaka Shishu Hospital Director Dr Syed Shafi Ahmed said they have nothing to do in this respect as the project director is working under the Ministry of Social Welfare. "We can control the ICU only if it is handed over to us after finishing."
He said the 200-bed hospital has 24 beds in CCU, ICU and HDU units, among which 10 are ICU beds. It is not enough against the demand.
Project Director Md Helal Uddin Bhuiyan, a deputy director of the Ministry of Social Welfare, said the work has been stopped due to coronavirus but it will be completed very soon.
He also said the construction could not be completed quickly as the lines for gas and oxygen for the ICU could not be connected yet. This was the responsibility of the hospital but they are delaying it.
Helal Uddin added that the cost of constructing the facilities for each ICU bed is around Tk1.5 crore. The rest of the allocation is being spent on an operating theater, an eight-bed post-operative and a six-bed HDU unit.
He further said the rest of the work, except the ICU unit, is being completed.
DGHS Director (Hospital and Clinic) Dr Aminul Islam said the project is being implemented jointly by the Ministry of Social Welfare and the Dhaka Shishu Hospital. DGHS has no involvement there.
"Even so, we will look into what kind of action can be taken in this regard," he said.
Former vice chancellor of BSMMU Prof Nazrul Islam said that the authorities concerned need to be more sincere in implementing such projects.
"Implementation of such projects is delayed due to lack of proper monitoring and accountability. Now, the Covid-19 prevalence has reached a critical level. The ICU crisis is also quite acute."
"Now 10 ICU beds mean a lot," added Dr Nazrul, urging the people concerned to complete the work as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Shishu Hospital is doing Covid-19 test.
Professor Nazrul said treatment of Covid-19 patients, especially children, can also be arranged alongside performing test activities.