As of July 14th, Bangladesh has registered about 190,057 COVID-19 cases and 2,424 deaths. Medical experts say that the real numbers are likely higher because of the lack of testing going on. Though there are roughly 3,000 new cases accumulating each day, hospitals have many empty beds, as citizens are scared to enter hospitals.
In the capital Dhaka, roughly 4,800 of the 6,300 beds set aside for COVID patients are not being used, and there are only 100 patients in a new 2,000-bed field hospital built for the pandemic. In Chittagong, authorities say only half of its dedicated beds are currently filled. According to the health department, the beds aren’t being used because many people are being treated at home. “Most of the patients have mild symptoms. Adequate telemedicine services are available. That may be the reason for empty beds in hospitals,” Nasima Sultana, health department deputy head asserted.
An official for a medical charity has told of the patients hesitations, stating that many have said they’d “rather die at home than die in a hospital.” A survey of 80,000 people carried out with the UN found that 44% of Bangladeshis were “too scared” to even use the government’s COVID helpline. The fear stems from the country’s hospitals not being “patient-friendly.” Rashid e Mahbub, head of the Bangladesh Health Rights Movement spoke on the issue further, “A negative perception have been treated, and that is promoting many patients to stay at home. Few people can afford the expensive private hospitals. […] A significant number of COVID-19 patients are dying at home.”
“We heard the doctors and nurses don’t come near patients for fear of being infected,” an anonymous woman stated. The hospitals had poor reputations before the pandemic, and thousands of wealthier citizens went to Thailand or Singapore for check-ups instead. With borders closed, they are unable to do that. Patients die at home without being followed up by doctors from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Virologist Nazrul Islam said that the questionable patient management system of the DGHS was resulting in the at-home deaths and the patients staying at home were not being followed up with and not declared recovered on confirmatory tests. He believes that the flawed management will prolong the stay of the virus.
Author: Camryn Thomas