I am an audience of late night talk shows on different TV channels. Lately, shows aired on two consecutive nights puzzled me. Let me briefly share those with you.
Many may have seen Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury facing several representatives from drug administration and medical profession who, along with the anchor, tried to nullify Gonoshasthaya Kendra's (GK) claim of acceptable testing kits. Apart from the heated exchanges, two aspects of the discussion troubled me.
First, the person from drug administration insisted that the manufacturer had to submit a protocol for carrying out the test and it was the manufacturer's responsibility to get it examined and approved by a third party. It was also hinted that the manufacturer was supposed to bear all necessary expenses.
It really bothered me to know that the regulators in our country do not have the ability to assess acceptability of a drug or testing kits using its own resources! Nor are they willing to take initiatives to get the examination done by a third party!
Under the increasing probability of death due to the spread of novel coronavirus, I find this absolutely unacceptable as a citizen.
Second, I wonder if the same set of rules applies equally to others!
While the drug administration may have the right to accept or reject test results obtained by following a specific procedure, do I not have the right to undertake tests as long as I do not incur harms to others?
However, we would certainly expect our regulators to inform users about the reliability of specific tests.
The recorded clip of the above-mentioned talk-show will be found on Facebook after it went viral, and I can understand the frustration of GK when no anchor questioned the authority that why it took almost ten days to provide blood samples to GK.
Furthermore, the allegation of twisted words cannot be ruled out.
On the following night, I could bear to watch the show for only few minutes.
The anchor concludes from one presentation that once the patients are in critical condition they ought to be moved to ICUs. Subsequent question posed to a medical practitioner (possibly from one of the government medical hospitals) was direct, emphasizing on the need for ventilators.
The physician tried to explain that only about 5% patients reached the stage where they had to be moved to ICU and not all of them needed ventilators. The anchor cut her off and insisted that she would confine her remarks on need for ventilators for those who reach critical condition!
I am concerned that evidence and reasoning are being twisted to serve interests of agencies which are not conducive to find cost effective solutions to the country's on-going problems with Covid-19.
I understand that there have been strong pushes to procure ventilators in many countries, though evidence of high mortality rate among ventilator users does not lend enough support to such moves.
I only hope that all actors in the mass media, no matter how mediocre some of them may be, realize the grave situation we are all in. Let science, professionalism, unbiased reasoning , and urge to know the facts guide our actions.
Dr Sajjad Zohir, is the Executive Director of Economic Research Group (ERG)