Every day, all officials including doctors and nurses are returning home after ending their duty round at the hospital, posing serious risks to their family members as well as all others they come in touch during their stay outside
The Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital is designated the only dedicated infirmary for treating coronavirus infected persons. But what safety protocol is being followed there? Is there a risk that the virus may be carried outside to infect others?
The answer, sadly, is yes as experts say.
The hospital does not have any residential facilities for the health workers. Every day, all officials including doctors and nurses are returning home after ending their duty round at the hospital, posing serious risks to their family members as well as all others they come in touch during their stay outside.
According to medical experts, everyone including health workers employed in a hospital where coronavirus patients are given treatment must stay in the hospital compound.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former adviser to the World Health Organisation's Southeast Asia region told The Business Standard patients suffering from any other illness should not be treated in a hospital where coronavirus-infected patients are treated.
"Everyone working there must stay there all the time and they will provide healthcare services maintaining all necessary precautions," he continued, "if they want to return to their family, they will have to keep themselves in a 14-day quarantine at first."
If this practice is not followed strictly, there might be disastrous consequences, he warned.
The noted health expert also stressed the need for regular disinfection of the hospitals dedicated for the treatment of the coronavirus patients.
He said there must be four teams of health workers in a hospital designated for the treatment of the coronavirus. Three of them will perform duty on eight-hour shifts and the other will be a reserve team.
"If these rules are not followed and the health workers return to their home after work every day, then other people might also get infected by them. If 100 people work in a hospital and if each of them transmits the virus to one person, then the infections will keep multiplying," he warned.
Several doctors of the Hospital, on condition of anonymity, admitted that they return home after office works every day, however, they said they did not see this practice as a risky one.
They claimed they follow the WHO guidelines for doctors treating coronavirus patients.
"When we return home after the shift, we take a bath before meeting our family members. We do not feel our close ones are at risk," they said.
They also claimed the 250-300 doctors and nurses working at the hospital on different shifts are maintaining all precautionary measures while on duty.
Nonetheless, Dr M Mushtuq Husain, member of the National Coordination Committee on coronavirus, agreed that it is ideal to have provisions for health workers' residential facilities in a hospital dedicated for coronavirus treatment.
While talking to The Business Standard, he said there is nothing to worry about if doctors treat patients wearing full protective equipment.
He, however, said if the number of patients increases substantially, they will take measures to provide residential facilities to the health workers taking the risk factors into consideration.
Admitting that health workers' residing in the hospital is the ideal solution, he said, "Doctors will go into self-quarantine after working for seven days, 14 days or one month at a stretch. They will return to work after 14 days of quarantine period. This practice should start from now. If this can be started now, doctors will get habituated to it before the number of patients rises."
Meanwhile, on a visit to the hospital on Friday morning The Business Standard found the street in front of the hospital completely deserted. Eight members of paramilitary auxiliary force Ansars were found deployed in front of two gates of the hospital.
The Business Standard also found that hospital employees were washing clothes without wearing facemasks or hand gloves in the compound adjacent to the hospital. But when they saw our photojournalist taking pictures, they hastily put on the protective gears.
According to sources at the Directorate General of Health Services, the 200-bed Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital has been kept ready for providing treatment to coronavirus patients. There is a 20-bed intensive care unit (ICU) in the hospital. Besides, there are dialysis facilities.
If any Bangladeshi national returning from abroad is found with high temperature on their arrival at the Dhaka airport, they are sent to this hospital.
However, the actual number of coronavirus patients and suspected cases in the hospital could not be known as nobody was willing to talk to journalists.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), currently 30 suspected coronavirus cases were in isolation and 44 persons were in institutional quarantine. As a standard practice, patients needing quarantine are being sent to the Kuwait-Bangladesh Hospital.
Chinese experience shows the treatment of Covid-19 patients had strained medical workers there struggling to stem an unprecedented outbreak that has killed 10,030 people and infected more than 244,500 worldwide.
Chinese health authorities and the World Health Organisation reported last Monday that 3,387 health workers in China had been infected with Covid-19 and more than 90 percent were in Hubei province, the ground zero of the global pandemic.
Exhaustion is one reason medical workers become highly susceptible to the infection according to John Nicholls, a Hong Kong University pathologist.
Others include lack of training in personal protective equipment, contaminated surfaces, close contact with sick patients and in our case, people operating outside there area of expertise.