Khulna on edge of health disaster
Three days after testing positive for Covid-19, Abul Kashem Sheikh started having severe breathing difficulties on June 18.
The family of the 63-year-old from Paikgachha in Khulna got worried and took him to the 130-bed Covid-19 unit in Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH).
But he was turned away as there was no room in the unit.
"The private hospitals were charging hefty amounts. We had no other option but to seek treatment in government facilities. But getting him admitted to a public hospital was an uphill task. We felt so helpless," said Kashem's son Akhter Sheikh.
The family was eventually able to get him into Khulna Sadar Hospital.
"His condition is very critical. Only God knows what will happen," said Akhter.
Khulna has become the worst Covid-affected district in the country. The numbers of deaths and positive cases have been spiralling. Three Covid hospitals in Khulna, including KMCH, have patients either above capacity or almost at capacity.
Of the 85 deaths reported yesterday, 32 were in Khulna division, by far the highest among all divisions, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
The number of casualties reached 13,787 yesterday. At least 5,727 new infections were recorded during this period, taking the total number of people infected to 8,66,877, according to the DGHS press release.
Yesterday's positivity rate was 20.27 percent while the total positivity rate stood at 13.53 percent.
Since the first case was detected in the country in March last year, Khulna division saw 896 deaths and 47,878 cases.
What's alarming is, 251 of the deaths and 13,587 the cases were recorded in just the last 23 days. At least 121 died in just the last five days.
"It is not possible to keep the people at home with the limited number of manpower," Mohammad Helal Hossain, deputy commissioner of Khulna, told The Daily Star.
Visiting the 130-bed Covid hospital where Kashem was taken first, this correspondent found that all the beds were occupied with patients still coming from different districts of the division.
There was a separate isolation centre at the KMCH but people were seen going in and out of the centre disregarding the rules.
"Relatives and attendants of patients were seen close to patients. They go outside the hospital and then come back. Two to three people get into the centre for one patient. This is how the virus is transmitting," said a doctor of the hospital wishing not to be named.
Mehedi Newaz, coordinator of the hospital, said, "Peoples' recklessness was spreading the virus. There are asymptomatic cases and they are spreading it silently."
He said the beds were increased from 100 to 130 but on an average, 160 patients were staying at the unit.
Khulna Sadar Hospital, where Kashem eventually found a bed, was declared a Covid dedicated hospital on Sunday with 70 beds.
Rasheda Sultana, the divisional director of health, said the overall Covid-19 situation in the division was still under control and that they were trying their best to provide patients with services.