The specialised government maternity hospital in Mohammadpur has no testing facility for Covid-19, thus putting lives of patients and health workers at risk
One morning in May, Nazrul Islam (alias) was waiting with bated breath at the third floor gate of Mohammadpur Fertility Services and Training Centre's 100-bedded Mother and Child Health Hospital.
Nazrul's wife Nazia Khatun had been taken to the operation theatre 15 minutes ago.
Though it was a joyous day for Nazrul's family, it was also a nerve-wracking time for them.
The couple's first child was being born during a serious pandemic.
"I am very worried about the delivery as the number of infected (Covid-19) patients is soaring," said Nazrul who was clad in surgical mask, hand gloves and PPE.
Another patient Rubina Akter, who was eight months pregnant, came to the hospital for a routine check-up. She was also gripped with fear of being infected.
"I do not know what might happen, but it is natural to be scared," she said while waiting in a queue.
Due to lack of training and testing facility, 10 health workers of the hospital have already been infected with the coronavirus.
On the morning of April 30, Sumaiya had come to this hospital to deliver her baby.
She was from Narayanganj, one of the hotspots of the coronavirus. She also had a fever, one of Covid-19 symptoms.
Not just her, many other patients with Covid-19 symptoms have been treated at this hospital in the last three months.
Healthcare workers had immediately taken her in as she was in labour.
Although Sumaiya was considered a suspected Covid-19 patient, there was no time to refer her to another hospital.
"There is no testing facility at our hospital. The staff is not trained to handle Covid-19 patients. As a result, 10 health workers, including a doctor, have been infected," said Dr Muniruzzaman Siddiqui, director of the Mohammadpur Fertility Services and Training Centre.
The infected workers are now in isolation and being treated at home.
On an average, nearly 700 patients come to the hospital every day for routine health check-ups and reproductive health counselling. However, there is no way to know who might be a carrier of the virus.
Hospital authority said the 100-beds are mostly occupied. Every day, 20 babies are born here on an average.
Doctors at the hospital informed The Business Standard that the main problem they are facing is that patients are hiding Covid-19 symptoms from them.
As a result, health workers as well as other patients are at risk of being infected. But doctors have no alternative but to provide services.
The hospital authority has set up a four-bed yellow zone in the hospital for patients with Covid-19 symptoms.
Those who are coming for routine check-ups are allowed to enter the hospital building after their temperature is checked.
A man in PPE routinely measures temperatures of patients before letting them in.
Patients standing in queues maintain social distancing rules while collecting entry tickets.
A separate makeshift seating space has been created for relatives and attendees on the hospital premises.
The director of the hospital also said that the authority should immediately set up a testing facility for the safety of health workers as well as patients.
"Once a testing facility is built, we will be able to make separate arrangements for Covid-19 patients. This will reduce the risk of infection," said Dr Muniruzzaman.
The hospital has recently introduced telemedicine services and patients are requested to call between 9am and 3pm for consultation.
The unprecedented pandemic is having a serious impact on lives and economies around the world.
According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), there is no scientific evidence indicating that pregnant women have increased susceptibility to Covid-19 or increased risk of adverse outcomes.
"However, it is known that, generally speaking, pregnant women undergo physical changes that can make them more vulnerable to experiencing serious respiratory infections," it further stated.
World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends protecting pregnant women and newborns by segregating antenatal, neonatal and maternal health units from identified Covid-19 cases.
The UN agency also said that there is no evidence to suggest Covid-19 can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery.
There is also no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through breastfeeding.