Hospitals are discouraging general patients to come to the facilities for fear of being infected
Zulfikar Ali of Keraniganj has been suffering from cardiac problems for three months. The director of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, Professor Mir Jamal Uddin, was supervising his treatment.
He was scheduled to undergo myocardial perfusion imaging – a non-invasive imaging test that shows how well blood flows through the heart muscle – on April 2.
The test was to determine whether Zulfikar would undergo an open-heart surgery or angioplasty.
He went to the hospital on April 1 and saw that the room where he was supposed to undergo myocardial perfusion imaging was closed.
Professor Jamal told him the test would not be performed because there was no reagent.
He also said reagent could not be imported from Europe due to air travel restrictions.
"Please be patient and have faith in Allah," the doctor told Zulfikar.
Zulfikar later contacted several other hospitals but none offered the test.
Not only myocardial perfusion imaging, angiogram is also suspended at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, causing cardiac patients to suffer.
Professor Jamal told The Business Standard that only emergency patients were being admitted as the emergency department was open.
He said only emergency patients would undergo procedures.
An assistant professor was also providing telehealth services, he said.
"The global cardiac healthcare bodies, such as the American College of Cardiology, have advised that general patients whose condition is not critical should not undergo angiogram or angioplasty during epidemics.
"Otherwise, a patient might be diagnosed with another disease. This is why routine healthcare has been made less frequent now," explained the professor.
He said a patient's immunity does not remain strong for four days after a major surgery.
It would be difficult to save their life if they got infected during this period, Jamal said.
"That is why it is better not to undergo a major operation if it is not emergency at this moment," he advised.
Zulfikar is unable to move smoothly due to his ailment. Now his surgery depends on when the coronavirus situation will be over.
Like Zulfikar, former Dhaka College principal Dr Gopal Chandra Devnath is unable to access the required medical care too. The 71-year-old is suffering from peripheral nervous system.
Doctors advised him to regularly receive physiotherapy for three months.
He was doing so at Sarkari Karmachari Hospital but it was suspended after 20 days.
Gopal's doctors told him he would be putting himself in a riskier situation if he went to the hospital and got infected with the coronavirus because of his old age.
Monzur Ahmed, 51, works at a private television channel. He has long been suffering from backpain.
Recently, he got hit in the waist and is now completely unable to move.
His doctors told him not to go to hospital as that would be risky in the light of the present situation.
Cancer patients are also facing obstacles accessing the required medical care services. Many are unable to receive chemotherapy.
Taslima Begum of Munshiganj, who is a breast cancer patient, was scheduled to receive chemotherapy at the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital on April 2.
But her doctors told her not to go to the hospital now.
Professor Muzaherul Huq, former adviser of the World Health Organisation's Southeast Asia region, told The Business Standard that patients suffering from chronic diseases should be provided with medical care no matter what.
"Every hospital should have a separate section where those who have fever and cough will be treated. That section has to offer rapid test facilities, which patients will use to receive whatever treatment they need," he noted.
But hospitals are still offering kidney dialysis, sources said.
Dr Muhib Ullah Khandker, vice-principal at Gonoshasthaya Samaj Vittik Medical College, told The Business Standard that kidney dialysis patients would not survive without that treatment.
He said the shutdown disrupted the hospital's schedule but it was still offering dialysis round the clock.
"We have also arranged transport services for patients on a limited scale," added Muhib.
Joint Secretary General of the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh Rashid-E-Mahbub said the Birdem General Hospital was offering dialysis but patients were suffering due to the shutdown.
Dr Aminul Hasan, director (hospital and clinic) of the Directorate General of Health Services, told The Business Standard that hospitals were offering all kinds of healthcare services.
He said routine operations might have been suspended but emergency services were open.
"We are in touch with hospitals and everything will return to normalcy soon," added Aminul.