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Covid-19: Fear leads hospitals to reject dying asthma patients

  • Published at 05:59 pm June 9th, 2020
File photo of patients receiving treatment at Dhaka Medical College Hospital Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

Incidents like these have become common these days as many hospitals are refusing to treat patients with respiratory diseases, and sometimes even otherwise

Monwar Begum, a 63-year-old woman suffering from breathing complications died in an ambulance on June 1, after being refused admission and treatment at six private hospitals in Sylhet.

Monwara has been an asthma patient for the past 35 years. She fell sick around midnight on May 31 and was rushed to Al-Haramain Hospital in Sobhanighat, family sources said.

Some hospitals said they did not have intensive-care units, some did not have oxygen supplies, and some refused to treat her because she had Covid-like symptoms. 

Another man named Iqbal Hossain khoka suffering from shortness of breath and chest pain died on June 5 after four hospitals refused him treatment in Sylhet.

Khoka’s son Tiham said: “Patients are denied treatment, even though the government has directed hospitals to provide proper treatment to patients during the coronavirus outbreak."

Incidents like these have become common these days as many hospitals are refusing to treat patients with respiratory diseases, and sometimes even otherwise.

Non-covid hospitals are denying treatment to asthma patients when they do not have a negative coronavirus test report with them, while hospitals dedicated for treating Covid-19 patients are refusing to take any patients who are not coronavirus positive.

To add to their burden, if people with respiratory diseases go to the booths to get tested they could get infected since they have to stand in line with people who might be coronavirus positive.

Public health expert and former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, Rashid E Mahbub, told Dhaka Tribune: “Patients with respiratory diseases should consider seeking health advice over the phone from their doctors if they feel the slightest deterioration in their health condition. 

“The doctor would advise if they need oxygen support or what they could do at home. They should go to hospital if the doctor suspects the patient needs hospitalization or oxygen support,” he said. 

He recommended getting tested for Covid-19 from home if possible, if people have respiratory disease and Covid-19 like symptoms. 

If the report comes negative, it will make it easier for patients with respiratory problems to get admission to hospitals.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque repeatedly requested doctors and hospitals to provide medical care to patients regardless of whether they have Covid-19 symptoms.

A UNDP funded research facility, Bangladesh Peace Observatory (BPO) published a report in May, based on newspaper reports of deaths showing Covid-19 symptoms, which showed 720 people died with Covid-19 symptoms since March.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh continues to see an upward trend in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Tuesday saw the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in a single day with 45 deaths and another 3,171 people testing positive.

Stockpiling oxygen is causing patients with respiratory problems to suffer more

Oxygen support is an important medication not only for Covid-19 patients but also other patients with various respiratory problems.

People who need oxygen support, often can neither buy oxygen cylinders nor get oxygen support in a hospital since they cannot get hospital admission. 

The price of oxygen cylinders has shot up tremendously and many hospitals are refusing to treat patients with respiratory diseases. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ecnec) last week, ordered authorities to purchase equipment to ensure and enhance ventilation facilities and oxygen supply mechanisms, and to set up Intensive Care Units at all district hospitals to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

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