The ICU Finder, a friend in need
Organising and collecting the latest data from all over the country is a difficult and repetitive task, which is why the option to register as volunteers is always open
When his father's condition deteriorated on June 7, Salman frantically began contacting hospitals in search of an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
Like his father, Salman too was infected with the novel coronavirus, but his own illness took a backseat for the time being.
Randomly calling hospitals ultimately lead to no result, so he posted a status on Facebook asking for help in the search. Luckily, the post quickly went viral and the Dhaka University student could save his father.
But during this search, Salman and his friends realised that not all social media posts go viral. What happens to these people? They observed that during emergencies, patients run from hospital to hospital in search of ICU beds without any idea about which hospitals actually have the facility.
This lack of information robs them of time; time that could be crucial to saving lives.
So, Salman and his friends decided to do come up with a solution. They planned to create a website with updated information on the availability of ICUs in Bangladesh.
But to do that, they needed people from across the country who would be able to provide updated information about ICUs on a regular basis. They posted their plan on Facebook and called upon people to join them as volunteers. And the initial response was overwhelming.
Those in Dhaka held a meeting on June 11. Two days later, they launched the website icufinder.web.app.
Omer Faruq, a founding member of the website, said, that the team initially comprised 10 people from Dhaka University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) and Dhaka Medical College.
They began by asking their friends to help with the information and also contacted different hospitals to determine the number of ICU beds available.
But this approach was not enough to cover the whole country. So, they again posted their plan on Facebook and received good response from medical students in different cities.
At least 50 volunteers from different places, disciplines and professions joined them within a very short time.
So far, they have been able to list 223 hospitals across the country, revealing the state of the ICU facilities at these hospitals.
However, the founders of this initiative have refused to be named or credited as they think the volunteers made this success possible and all of them have equal contribution to the website.
On the homepage of the website, you will get two options. One is a search option for hospitals and another is for registering as a volunteer.
By clicking the search option, you can look up ICU beds based on your location. It will show you how many beds are available in a particular hospital and of those beds, how many are allotted for coronavirus patients. You can also check whether there are any beds available for both coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients.
The contact numbers of those hospitals are also available on the site.
Organising and collecting the latest data from all over the country is a difficult task as the list must be updated continuously. This is why the option to register as volunteers is always open.
The founders also faced other obstacles while collecting the information, the biggest of which is secrecy.
"Listing the number of ICU beds for patients' wellbeing is not unethical or illegal. But we have seen people feeling reluctant to give any information regarding ICU beds, as if giving out this data is unethical or as if it should be kept secret," said Omer Faruq.
Several other volunteers working on the project said the information they had collected mostly came from anonymous sources. However, many of them have assured the volunteers of their support.
ICU Finder volunteers said getting information from public medical colleges or private hospitals with medical colleges was easier because students from those places came forward.
On the other hand, famous private hospitals refused to cooperate at all. The behaviour of the authorities of those hospitals sometimes raised questions in the volunteers' minds about their intention. But ordinary private hospitals have been very supportive to them.
While collecting all the information, the volunteers were surprised to see the inadequate number of ICU beds in the country.
"The number of the ICU beds in Bangladesh is really very poor," said Omer.
The founders of the website are also planning to launch an app to provide people with more upgraded services for finding ICUs.