Bangladesh urgently needs to secure ventilators for Covid-19 patients

The Daily Star  April 09, 2020

Demand for the device will only increase in the coming days

As the number of Covid-19 patients increases every day in the country, with 20 deaths and 218 confirmed cases reported by the IEDCR as of yesterday, the government just has no other option but to be well-prepared to cope with the situation that may arise in the coming days. The global trend of the disease tells us that we have reasons to worry. At a time when the richest and most powerful countries of the world are struggling to provide the necessary support and medical treatment to their patients, it is totally understandable what the situation would be like in Bangladesh, with its weak health system, if the outbreak takes on a more severe form.

Bangladesh does not have the sufficient number of test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) right now without which providing treatment to the Covid-19 patients is not possible. What is also worrying is that the country does not have enough ventilator machines to provide respiratory support to the critically ill Covid-19 patients. Reportedly, there are 1,769 ventilators in Bangladesh at this moment (some are in the pipeline), which means an average of one ventilator available for every 93,273 persons. Also, most of the country’s intensive care beds and ventilators are installed at hospitals in major cities, mostly in Dhaka, meaning that people from remote communities will not be able to access those when they will need them. Also, not all the hospitals with ventilators are providing Covid-19 treatment. Just imagine what would happen to the one million Rohingya refugees living in cramped conditions, if there is an outbreak in the camps. According to Save the Children, the acute scarcity of ventilators in Cox’s Bazar district, where around 3.3 million people live, means that lives will be lost when Covid-19 starts to spread more widely in the community.

Therefore, apart from importing test kits and PPEs, another challenge for the government right now is securing ventilators needed to treat the critically ill patients. It’s encouraging to learn about the initiative taken by the local tech giant Walton to manufacture ventilators. We hope they will soon start producing and marketing these life-saving devices. However, we also need to import ventilators on an urgent basis given the deteriorating Covid-19 situation in the country. One of the options available to Bangladesh is to bring in the device from China, where the number of Covid-19 cases has dropped, while other options should also be explored. In addition, the government needs to seek international assistance and engage the public and private sectors urgently to secure as many ventilators as possible for Covid-19 patients.

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