Dirty bedsheets, dysfunctional washing machines pose risk of infection at the hospital
Yusuf Ali is a patient at Chattogram Medical College Hospital. A corner of his bedsheet is bloodstained.
He came to the hospital with back pain, and was admitted to the neurosurgery department for surgery.
Yusuf Ali has no idea when the bedsheet was last washed. He has been in the hospital for a week, and no one has come to change it.
Another patient, Shamsunnahar, who is in the burn unit, has the same problem.
"The bedsheets are totally unusable. I itch when I lie on it. That is why I have brought my own bedsheet. All the bedsheets in this hospital are dirty," said Shamsunnar.
Doctors at the hospital admit that the bedsheets are dirty and unhygienic. People using them will be prone to infections, and may also develop a resistance to antibiotics.
"You will find crores of bacteria on a bedsheet if you examine it through a microscope. And the risk increases in hospitals," said Arup Kanti Dewanji, former associate professor at the Microbiology department of the hospital.
"Resistance to antibiotics has become a serious problem around the globe. In the past few years we have come across many patients who have developed such a resistance.
Furthermore, many harmful bacteria destroy the immune system. This is a matter of grave concern and the hospital must deal with it seriously."
The doctor also said that patients come to the hospital with different diseases, and these are transmitted between patients.
"These harmful viral and bacterial diseases not only pose a risk to patients, but to medical service providers as well. We need to keep a record of the diseases that admitted patients have," Arup Kanti added.
"All patients at the hospital are at risk of getting infected. Half the patients have to lie on the floor because of a shortage of beds. Furthermore, the sterilisation machine has been out of order for a long time. The hospital must take this matter seriously. A new sterilisation machine costs only Tk60 lakh," another doctor said, seeking anonymity.
On a visit to the hospital, this correspondent found a boiler, a washing machine and a rinsing machine that were dysfunctional. Hospital bedsheets and clothing should be washed in water heated to 200oC in the boiler in order to kill bacteria. But since the boiler is out of order, the bedsheets are being washed in cold water. Cold water does not kill bacteria.
As the irons do not work either, the hospital staff dry the linen under sunlight in an open space.
"We have rules set by the WHO and the health ministry for washing bedsheets and clothes in the hospital," Arup Kanti Dewanji added.
The rules say that these items should be washed in a closed place. Hospitals and clinics get these directives even before getting approval from the health ministry.
At least 2,500 to 3000 patients are admitted to the 313-bed Chattogram Medical College Hospital every year. The rules say that each patient should be allocated four sets of bedsheets. But the patients do not get this.
Even though the hospital claims that it has 3,000 bedsheets, that is not the case.
Sources at the hospital said that they wash at least 800 to 1,000 bedsheets, 200 to 300 towels, abdominal sheets, draw sheets, aprons and clothes used the operation theatre every day. They said they send the clothes used in the operation theatre to the laundry, and they wash the bedsheets in the hospital's own laundry room.
The clothes used in the operation theatre are washed in an autoclave machine, but other items are washed in a washing machine and dried in sunlight.
"Due to the rising number of patients, providing each patient a with bedsheet is difficult. Also, there is a shortage of manpower in the hospital. That's why the clothes used during surgery are sent to a laundry," said a hospital staff member.
Fifty percent of the patients wash their own clothes, and the rest send them to a laundry, said the Deputy Director of the hospital Dr Akhtarul Islam.
"Every year we have to spend Tk60 lakh to Tk70 lakh on laundry because our boiler machine is out of order. We have written to the health department for allocating of funds to buy a sterilising machine and a boiler. We have already bought a set of machines for the hospital's laundry room, and these will be delivered to the hospital soon," Dr Akhtarul added.