More and more frontline healthcare workers are getting infected, making the country's battle against the deadly coronavirus harder.
At least 5,001 of them have tested positive, and 62 doctors were confirmed to have died from Covid-19 as of Sunday, according to Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA).
Of the infected, there are 1,724 doctors, 1,352 nurses and 1,925 other employees.
Infection of such a large number of frontline healthcare workers is an immense burden on the country's health system, especially since there are too few of them against such a large population, experts said.
As of yesterday, 11 other doctors, mostly senior ones, died with what appeared to be coronavirus, says Bangladesh Doctors' Foundation (BDF).
"Although there are fewer new cases among healthcare workers lately, the total number is still high," said BMA Secretary General Ehteshamul Huq Choudhury.
More health workers got infected in the Southeast Asian countries, compared to other regions. And the number is the highest in Bangladesh, he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Of the total cases in Bangladesh, 3.08 percent were health workers as of Sunday.
This indicates that many health workers still do not have adequate protection against the infection, experts said.
The main causes of infection among health workers are the poor personal protective equipment (PPE) supplied at the beginning of the outbreak and patients concealing their symptoms, according to Ehteshamul.
Delayed introduction of triage at hospitals is also responsible for the situation, he said.
Triage is the process of determining the priority of a patient's treatment based on the severity of their condition or the likelihood of their recovery with or without treatment.
After the prime minister's intervention, doctors were provided with proper PPE, and the number of new infections reduced.
No hospital in the country has an infection prevention and control programme, he said, adding that there should have been one or more experts to teach health workers how to use PPE.
In a letter to the health minister last month, the BMA said the health ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services were responsible for the infections among doctors.
The ministry made arrangements for treating journalists, police, lawyers and people of several other professions, but it did not take similar steps to ensure treatment for the frontline fighters, the letter said.
BMA called for dedicating Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital or another facility for the infected doctors.
Nirupam Das, chief administrator at BDF, said hospital infections were happening simply because of a lack of preventive measures.
WHO ARE THE VICTIMS?
Of the 62 doctors who died, at least 42 were aged above 60. Most of them were professors or had long experiences. They could have played a major role in a crisis like this, said Ehteshamul.
Besides giving treatment, they could guide the young doctors to become skilled physicians. They could also play important policy making roles in the health sector, he added.
Many of the senior doctors had comorbidities and it was difficult to save them from Covid-19, he said.
Six to seven of them worked at ICUs. "In our country, no hospital has a negative pressure room. As a result, doctors get infected while working at the ICUs."
Negative pressure is an isolation technique used in hospitals to prevent cross-contamination from room to room.
Doctors who are involved in intubation and nebulisation are more vulnerable to infection, Ehteshamul added.