Like every winter, district hospitals are struggling to cope with the huge number of patients with winter diseases, including seasonal fever, flu, coughs, breathing complications, diarrhoea and pneumonia, in this year too due to lack of preparation and the negligence of the health sector authorities, say experts.
Experts suggested that authorities should project the number of patients with the help of previous data and act in advance to keep all hospitals and health centres ready to deal with the pressure of patients with seasonal flu.
"Since seasonal diseases are a serious problem, it should be a priority in the health sector. If the health sector struggles to deal with seasonal flu even after 50 years, when will our health service develop?" said Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice chancellor of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital.
"As authorities are concerned about taking preparation to handle floods, similar preparation should be taken to counter flu. We have seen the limitations of the health sector in Covid-19. As the infection is less at present, authorities have the opportunity to overcome the limitations," he added.
Professor Nazrul also said their research showed that various respiratory diseases hit the country due to the effects of rhinovirus and influenza every winter but patients bear various types of sufferings such as they stay on the floor due to scarcity of beds in hospitals. Due to the lack of capacity of hospitals, many patients take homoeopathy or other treatment. even some patients die without treatment. This situation can be handled with prior preparation.
Bina Rani, 55, of Maheshpurupazila has been admitted to the 250-bed Jashore General Hospital for three days with stomach ache and fever. Although it is difficult to stay on the floor in winter, she has no other choice. There were 53 patients admitted on Saturday against 10 beds in the women's medicine ward, most of whom are staying on the floor.
The situation is similar in most of the district hospitals including Pabna, Naogaon and other districts where almost all hospitals have twice as many patients as beds.
In Jashore General Hospital, patients and their relatives are found staying on the floor in front of the toilet due to a shortage of beds. Moreover, there are allegations that most of the time intern doctors visit patients as doctors rarely come to the ward.
Every day, 70 patients on average are admitted here. On Saturday, 489 patients were admitted to the hospital.
Dr Akhtaruzzaman, the caretaker of the hospital, said even though the number of patients is much higher than the capacity no patient is sent back without providing treatment.
Shahana Khatun, 65, was receiving treatment on the floor at the 250-bed Pabna General Hospital after having fever, cold and cough.
"I am staying on the floor though it is very cold at night as I do not have any other way. Poor people like me cannot afford to go to private hospitals," Shahana said.
Dr Abu Zafar, assistant director of the hospital, said the pressure on patients has increased with the cold weather. Although there is a problem in providing medical services due to a shortage of doctors, they are trying to cope with the situation by doing overtime duty. On average, 18-20 children with cold, diarrhoea and pneumonia are being admitted daily in the 15-bed children's ward of the hospital.
Shokhina Bibi, mother of a 1.5-month old baby patient, said her baby got admitted to the hospital on Thursday. Authorities have provided medicine but no bed is available.
Health Emergency Operations Centre and Control Room, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), collects data on winter diseases from hospitals from the middle of November to the end of March every year.
According to DGHS statistics, 2.26 lakh people were affected by winter-related diseases in November and December 2019. Among them, 49 died of fever, respiratory issues and diarrhoea. The number of similar patients was over two lakh in 2020.
Control room sources said hospitals have been asked to send information about winter diseases from Thursday.
Dr Farid Hossain Miah, Director (Hospital and Clinic), DGHS told TBS, "Each hospital has different departments and a specific number of beds for them. As the number of patients increases in winter, either the patients have to be kept on the floor or be sent back. At present, there is no other way."
"The 30-bed hospitals are being converted into 50-bed hospitals or 50-bed hospitals into 100-bed or 250-bed hospitals to accommodate more patients. The drug crisis in hospitals has now abated but the problem is the manpower crisis, which we are working to resolve," he added.
Our correspondents from Jashore, Pabna and Noagaon have contributed to preparing the report.