Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, patients are not visiting diagnostic centres unless they need regular check-ups or emergency tests
The Medinova Diagnostic Centre in Dhaka used to be bustling with people seeking health care services, but now the facility is giving off a vacant look.
All 24 seats in the waiting room are empty, and only one staff member is in charge of the cash counter. There was no rush of patients and no queue in front of the counter on Thursday.
Monowar Hossain, who is working as a security guard at the diagnostic centre in Dhanmondi for two years, has never seen such a situation before. "I used to have a hard time managing vehicles at the facility, but the patients are not visiting as they used to," he said.
The doctors have stopped seeing patients at their private chambers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and people are not leaving their homes due to the general holiday announced by the government to tackle the situation.
Under the circumstances, patients are not visiting the diagnostic centres in Dhaka unless they need regular check-ups or emergency tests.
The Medinova Diagnostic Centre has cut the number of staff in all sections due to the low turnout of visiting patients. Number of staff has gone down in the reception desk, cash counter and other sections.
On an average day, the centre used to perform more than 600 tests, but now the number has dropped to around 40. The facility performed only 14 tests until 3pm on Thursday.
Public Relations Officer Zakir Hossain is looking after the cash counter at the centre.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Zakir said, "Only the diabetic patients now visit the centre for regular check-ups. Some patients also visit to undergo emergency ECG tests after suffering chest pain.
"We are also performing some X-rays and compete blood count (CBC) tests. We used to perform all sorts of tests for patients."
He further said, "This is only a diagnostic centre, not a hospital. The patients, who visit doctors practising at private chambers, are our main customers. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, most doctors have stopped seeing patients.
"Presently, a sonologist, a cardiologist and a medicine specialist are seeing patients here. So, naturally the number of tests being performed at this centre has gone down. Many are calling us in advance before visiting to know whether we are open during the holidays."
The Comfort Diagnostic Centre in Green Road is also wearing a vacant look.
At the centre on Thursday, only one staff member was looking after the cash counter and another was in charge of the reception desk. They were passing time watching the television, as there were no patients at the facility.
The centre performs more than 700 tests per day under normal circumstances. But now, it is performing around 30 tests daily.
Responding to query, Comfort Diagnostic Centre's cash counter in-charge Imran Ali said, "The patients used to get tested while waiting for the doctors to see them. As the doctors' chambers are closed, the number of patients at hospitals is much lower.
"So, the number of tests has also gone down."
He continued, "Some patients are visiting us because not all diagnostic centres are offering ultrasonogram tests. On Thursday, we performed one ultrasonogram test until 4pm. We are also performing a few regular tests for diabetic patients.
"Patients suffering from kidney or heart complications are not visiting anymore."
The diagnostic centre has granted leave-of-absence to many of the staff members due to the lower number of patients. The cash counter used to have three staff, but now only one is handling the responsibility.
"It was hard even for three people to manage the counter, but now there is hardly any work for one staff."
The story of Popular Diagnostic Centre in Dhanmondi is quite similar to Medinova and Comfort.
It used to perform 1,500 tests daily, but now the number has dropped to around 50.
However, the Popular Diagnostic Centre currently has more staff working at various sections compared to the other two facilities. On Thursday, multiple staff members were seen in different areas such as the main gate, reception, cash counter and report delivery section.
But no patients were seen in front of the cash counter, and there was no queue for undergoing tests.
Achinto Kumar Nag, Manager of Human Resource and Admin of the centre, said, "We have kept our hospital and diagnostic centre open. Many doctors have kept their private chambers open as well.
"But people are not leaving home, so the number of patients has gone down. Some patients are visiting only for routine checks or to get tested after suffering sudden injuries."
Responding to query, Bangladesh Private Clinic Diagnostic Owners Association's President Dr Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan said, "The number of staff has dropped, but the diagnostic centres are being kept open.
"Due to the lack of patients, these centres are suffering from financial difficulties."
He added, "There are around 14,000 private hospitals and diagnostic centres in the country, and they employ various staff and employees including doctors, nurses and healthcare workers.
"Without any income, the owners will have to pay their salaries out of their pocket. We are on the verge of a severe crisis."