Limited ICUs put Covid-19 patients at risk

Afroza Khondokar Luna from Narayanganj tested positive for Covid-19 on May 23. After her condition deteriorated on May 31, she needed intensive care but her family was unable to secure an intensive care unit (ICU) bed for her, either in Narayanganj or in Dhaka.

At present, she is in critical condition and on oxygen support at Sajida Foundation in Narayanganj.
Like Luna, many other Covid-19 patients are suffering every day and many are dying due to a lack of space at ICUs.

According to the World Health Organization, many of the 20 percent of Covid-19 patients – 15 percent with strong symptoms and five percent in critical condition – need ICU and ventilator support. Additionally, elders with other chronic diseases require ICU support.

Doctors said the demand for ICU space is increasing at dedicated Covid-19 hospitals in Dhaka.
Dr Asadul Mazid Nomaan of Anaesthesia and ICU division at Mugda General Hospital said that there were 10 ICU beds at the hospital, but one out of five patients await ICU every day.

“An ICU patient recovers in 14-16 days. If anyone dies within that time, a bed becomes vacant. However, when an ICU patient's condition improves, he or she is moved to a cabin or a ward to accommodate another patient in the ICU,” he added.
According to the health directorate, there are a total 13,984 isolation beds at dedicated Covid-19 hospitals across the country – of which 399 are ICU beds.

There are 218 ICU beds in the capital, whereas 47 are in Dhaka division, 34 in Chattogram, 28 in Rajshahi, 18 in Khulna, 18 in Barishal, 16 in Sylhet, 13 in Rangpur, and seven in Mymensingh.

Covid-19 hotspots Narayanganj and Gazipur have 10 and seven ICU beds, respectively. There is no ICU bed in Tangail, Narsingdi, and Madaripur.

Chattogram has become a new hotspot for Covid-19 as both the infection and death rates are increasing every day. Some patients including a brother of an industrialist have recently died due to a lack of ICU support.

As per the data provided by the health directorate, 2,800 people have tested positive so far in Chattogram – which was only 53 in April.

So far, nationwide, 47,153 people have been infected with the virus and 650 have died from it. As deaths are spiking, experts have emphasised the importance of increasing the number of ICU beds and oxygen supply.

Virologist Professor Nazrul Islam said, “The number of patients is increasing and it may increase further as the lockdown has been loosened. So, hospitals have to increase the number of ICU beds and oxygen supply, especially for elderly and critical patients.”

Patients over 60, who require ICU support, are dying more at present, he added.
Additional secretary at health ministry Habibur Rahman said, “If we can fully utilise the existing ICU beds, we can serve 400 patients. The reality is it is not possible to increase the number of ICU beds overnight. We are trying to import the necessary equipment.”