• Thursday, Jan 27, 2022
  • Last Update : 03:32 am

No new ventilators in the pipeline?

  • Published at 03:51 pm April 25th, 2020

Authorities in the dark about import of 400-500 new ventilators for Covid-19 patients

Health Minister Zahid Maleque's recent claim about bringing some 400-500 ventilators and oxygen generators into Bangladesh has become increasingly vague, as authorities have confirmed that there has been no progress in importing them.

In Bangladesh, there are 1,267 ventilator machines attached with intensive care units (ICU) for the total population — 520 in state-run hospitals and 737 in private hospitals.

The government has dedicated only 190 of those — 79 in Dhaka and the rest in other districts — to treat the critical Covid-19 patients, the number of whom is exponentially rising every day alongside the number of deceased.

Health Minister Zahid, who also heads the National Committee for Prevention and Control of Covid-19, earlier this month said they were working to bring some 400 to 500 ventilators and oxygen generators into the country to address the shortage.

A press release issued by the Health Ministry on April 9 also quoted him as saying that another 380 new ventilators were being imported.

When asked about the development, the ministry’s Additional Secretary (hospital wing) Md Sherajul Islam also claimed that work orders have been placed for 250 ventilators, but not from China.

However, authorities and senior officials involved in the process have confirmed to Dhaka Tribune that no process is currently on to import ventilators any time soon, casting confusion over the health minister’s claim.

“We do not know why the minister said this. No work order to purchase new ventilators has been placed by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) or Health Ministry yet,” confirmed a top official of Central Medical Store Depot (CMSD) at DGHS, who asked not to be named.

The official also said that even if Bangladesh continues to set up ventilators, it will not be effective because of extreme shortage of manpower in operating intensive care facilities.

This correspondent called the health minister and DGHS Director General Abul Kalam Azad multiple times every day since April 21 for comments, but neither of them answered.

DGHS Director (Hospital) Dr Md Aminul Hasan said even if Bangladesh places an order now, it may take two weeks before the ventilator machines arrive here.

But, he said, that also depends on availability of the ventilator machines — which pump air to the lungs of patients through a tube placed in the windpipe, helping them breathe.

Experts believe that although the number of Covid-19 cases confirmed in Bangladesh is still lower compared to many other nations, the coming days will be critical if the country does not prepare properly for testing, isolating, and quarantining people.

People with a history of respiratory problems can become a major casualty in Covid-19 treatment because of the scarcity of ventilators, they said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said data from China suggests that 15–20% of Covid-19 cases required hospitalization, with around 15% presenting severe symptoms, and 5% requiring intensive care.

“Estimates from China also suggest that patients in ICUs require approximately 13 days of respiratory support, while data from Italy show that 10–25% of patients will require ventilation, and some patients will need ventilation for several weeks,” it pointed out.

Bangladesh has already sought increased support from China, particularly for personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators, saying it will need more support to deal with the crisis.

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