Some dengue patients are seeking treatment only after their condition gets worse
Eight of the 12 state-run hospitals in Dhaka, which are listed by the health directorate to treat dengue patients, are now turning them away, unable to provide treatment for the mosquito-borne disease.
Each of these hospitals used to have a dengue-dedicated ward, but those were designated for Covid patients, leading to the current predicament.
Being refused by government hospitals, the dengue patients in the capital are now forced to go to the private ones.
In the 24 hours to 8am on Friday, 211 new patients were diagnosed in Dhaka, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The day before, 208 dengue cases were reported in the city, 63 of whom went to public hospitals for treatment, DGHS data says.
As many as 1,010 people are currently undergoing treatment for dengue across Bangladesh, 972 of whom are in Dhaka, as of Friday morning.
Since January, 4,115 dengue patients have been hospitalized, of whom 3,095 have been discharged upon recovery.
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has received reports of 10 deaths caused by the viral infection, but none of them have been confirmed yet.
Dhaka is currently the hotspot of this year’s dengue outbreak, reporting more than 90% of the total caseload every day. In this circumstance, the reduced medical facilities have resulted in yet another medical crisis with Covid already wreaking havoc.
‘Dengue patients can’t be at the same hospital as Covid patients’
Treating dengue patients at hospitals where Covid patients are also treated increases the risk of coronavirus transmission, public health experts say.
Dhaka Medical College Hospital Director Brig Gen Md Nazmul Haque said the hospital’s dengue ward was converted into a Covid unit at the suggestion of the DGHS earlier this year.
“Dengue and Covid are both internal medicine diseases, but we are having to give priority to Covid patients at the moment,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Dengue patients are at the risk of contracting Covid-19 if kept at the DMCH, Brig Gen Haque said, adding that a double infection of the two diseases would make a patient’s health condition considerably complicated, which had already been noticed in some people.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital and Mugda General Hospital have turned their dengue units into Covid wards as well.
These hospitals are currently only providing primary treatment to dengue patients and referring them to other government facilities, mainly to Mitford Hospital.
Central Police Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital and Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital are also turning dengue patients away for the same reason. The National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation did not get any dengue patients in the last few days.
Mugda General Hospital Director Dr Ashim Kumar Nath said: “If a patient tests positive for dengue, we send them to other state-run hospitals, fearing that they may contract coronavirus from a Covid patient here.
“But we are providing medical care to patients who are down with both dengue and Covid. We have seven or eight such patients admitted at the moment,” he added.
The Combined Military Hospital and Dhaka Shishu Hospital are currently accepting dengue patients, while another facility listed by the DGHS, BGB Hospital, is not seeing many dengue patients coming in at present.
Patients seek help only after their condition gets worse
A 14-year-old boy went to Mitford Hospital accompanied by his parents on Monday. He had developed a fever three day before and later tested positive for dengue.
When he was taken to the hospital, doctors immediately rushed him to the ICU. He had trouble breathing due an excessive build-up of fluid in his chest.
The teenager succumbed to the viral disease a few hours later.
Dr Mizanur Rahman, registrar of Mitford Hospital and the focal person of its dengue ward, said more than 50% of incoming patients were getting admitted only after the disease turned severe, making their treatment rather challenging for the doctors.
“Most public hospitals are referring dengue patients here [Mitford], leading to a rapid rise in the number of patients at the hospital,” he added.
Most of the critical patients had a build-up of fluid in their abdomens and lungs and blood in their stool, and vomited profusely, which are all bad symptoms, Dr Rahman said.
“After being feverish for around three days, patients conclude that they have contracted coronavirus. Only after testing Covid negative do they consult a doctor and get tested for dengue… but by that time, they have wasted five or six days and their condition has aggravated,” he said.
Dr Rahman suggests such patients opt for both dengue and Covid tests and consult a doctor without delay.
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A total of 154 dengue patients are currently receiving medical care at the hospital with 21 new admissions till 10am on Thursday.
Dedicated facilities in the works
Due to the alarming surge in dengue cases, the DGHS has made necessary arrangements at two hospitals — Aminbazar 20-Bed Hospital in Dhaka and Shaheed Ahsan Ullah Master General Hospital in Gazipur — to treat patients.
The health authorities are also reinforcing Mitford Hospital to cope with the onrush of dengue patients.
Moreover, Shishu Matrisadan Hospital in Mirpur is being prepared to treat dengue patients as well.
DGHS Line Director Dr Mohammad Robed Amin said the health authorities were planning to designate some hospitals in Tongi solely for dengue patients, to prevent the situation from worsening further.
“We have to give priority to Covid right now, which is why some hospitals are not taking in dengue patients,” he said.
“We are taking special measures in order to treat dengue patients at some hospitals in Tongi. Hopefully, everything will be in order in a few days,” he said.