Fight for survival amid ICU crisis
Rafia, a 14-year-old girl battling dengue, finds herself caught in a distressing predicament within the healthcare system of Dhaka.
Admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital five days ago, her condition rapidly deteriorated, demanding urgent Intensive Care Unit intervention. However, due to an ICU crisis gripping Dhaka's hospitals, the sixth grader had to be shuttled between three medical facilities in search of a vacant ICU bed, but with no luck.
She has been seeking treatment at a regular ward at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, despite needing ICU support.
"Doctors said she needs immediate ICU support. We took her to a private hospital in Dhanmondi from DMCH on Tuesday as the latter didn't have any vacant ICU beds. But the private hospital refused to admit her as her health situation was critical and suggested we took her to a facility with better ICU support," Rafia's father Riaz Uddin, a welding worker, told this correspondent yesterday.
They then took her to Suhrawardy hospital where a duty doctor admitted her after taking an undertaking from her mother Laboni. The undertaking read: "I have been informed about the condition of the patient and possible consequences. She needs treatment in the ICU. Even after hearing everything, I have agreed to continue her treatment in a general ward at the hospital."
Moinuddin, Rafia's uncle, said, "We agreed to such a condition since we have already spent a significant amount on her care and moving her to another private hospital with superior ICU facilities would cost us even more…something poor people like us cannot afford."
"My nephew can still be saved if we find her an ICU bed in a government facility," he added.
Rafia's father also added that doctors at the hospital told them there are 16 patients waiting for ICU admission and they are number 13 in the serial list.
This is not the situation of just one patient, rather it represents many who require ICU care but are unable to access it because of the widespread dengue infection.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services, at least 12 dengue patients (seven in Dhaka) died in the last 24 hours till yesterday morning. With these, total dengue deaths this year rose to 352.
With 2,844 new dengue patients yesterday, the total number of cases rose to 75,069.
HM Nazmul Ahsan, associate professor at Suhrawardy hospital said they have a huge shortage of both ICU and High Dependency Unit (HDU) beds as both are occupied due to huge demands.
"There are around 20 ICU and HDU beds in the hospital. If a patient starts having breathing problems and their oxygen level drops, then they need oxygen. We can provide oxygen support up to 15 to 20 litres to a patient in a ward bed... but when they need more than that, ICU support is a serious necessity," he said.
According to DGHS, there are around 1,323 ICU beds and 886 HDU beds in different government hospitals across the country.
Current situation demands far more than the capacity, said doctors of different hospitals.
"The wards dedicated to dengue patients are full. Most of the beds in general wards are also occupied by people suffering from dengue," Nazmul added.
"We are only treating patients who are at serious risk and show warning symptoms," he noted.
Amidst the challenges posed by the ICU crisis and surge in dengue cases, there are also tales of hope.
Take the case of Abdul Baten for example. He is a school teacher who came to Dhaka to take part in a movement demanding nationalisation of their educational institutions in Jatiya Press Club around 15 days back. Upon returning home to Chandpur, he was diagnosed with dengue.
He was referred to Suhrawardy hospital from a Chandpur facility after his condition deteriorated. But he is feeling a lot better now.
"I was so sick that I thought I would die. But I'm feeling good after my treatment at the hospital," he added.