Dr. Md Moyeen Uddin, an assistant professor of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, who tested COVID-19 positive, eventually died at Kurmitola General Hospital in Dhaka on Wednesday. He is the first doctor to die while providing service to corona infected patients in Bangladesh.
Like English poet, Binyon said in his famous poem For the Fallen, “As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,/To the end, to the end, they remain”, we will remember Dr. Uddin’s sacrifice but we also need to know why he had to die.
There are allegations that Dr. Moyeen did not receive proper treatment while he was admitted at MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital, his very own workplace. For whatever reason, he did not get an ICU bed at the hospital.
Later he wanted to get transferred to Dhaka for better treatment and requested if an air ambulance could be arranged. A recommendation was needed from the director-general (DG) of Health Services. However, the DG did not give a recommendation when it was applied.
Neither an air ambulance nor an ICU ambulance could be arranged for this dedicated medical professional and teacher. He ended up being in a private ambulance with no ICU facilities.
Dr. Moyeen’s death has triggered a wave of grief and anger among social media users, particularly in the doctors’ community. Some of them have referred to a recent incident where an AC, Land was airlifted to CMH in Dhaka even though the AC, Land is a grade nine official, whereas, Dr. Moyeen is a grade six government official.
I have seen the screenshot of the Messenger conversation between Dr. Moyeen and one of his colleagues where he was requesting if an ICU ambulance could be arranged. It has broken my heart to see a devoted doctor begging for an ICU ambulance and not getting it in the end. I have seen another message where he said he was working without any PPE. This shows how committed he was to his profession and paid the ultimate price for it.
Dr. Md Moyeen has glorified his own life and profession but the state can claim no glory in this death. We have lost a dedicated health professional in the ongoing battle against a global pandemic, largely due to the mindlessness of our politicians and bureaucrats.
We got about three months to prepare ourselves the fight this deadly virus but our public health administration failed miserably. I doubt if they made any efforts at all. Now once the pandemic is here we see the administration falling apart.
The minister responsible knows nothing about the crisis, the disease and what is going on around him. He cannot manage, cannot decide and cannot even talk. The Secretary responsible has not spoken a word about the issue the whole time and seems to be at a complete loss.
The Director-General of Health Services keeps giving contradictory facts and figures on the department’s preparation in combatting the virus. He keeps making a false impression that everything is under control. He does not seem to own his junior colleagues and forces them to go on a suicide mission. He continues to claim that there is adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)s for the doctors while the doctors keep complaining that they do not have enough.
It is clearly complete chaos and it has to be fixed. Honourable Prime Minister has been actively monitoring everything these days and we hope the mismanagement and lack of coordination will minimize soon. The faster it is, the better for the country.
Dr. Moyeen is the first doctor to sacrifice his life in combating the pandemic in Bangladesh but sadly, he will not be the last. We will lose more doctors, health professionals and frontline workers in the coming days in our battle against COVID-19.
But we cannot afford to lose too many health professionals to COVID-19 at this point in time. One doctor’s death is a loss to more than 1847 people in Bangladesh. With more than 100 doctors and nurses already infected by the virus and around 300 health professionals in-home quarantine amid lack of protective equipment, we are certainly heading towards a complete disaster.
Here, we can relevantly compare the present-day situation to what happened just over 100 years ago during Spanish Flu, the deadliest pandemic in history, infecting an estimated 500 million people worldwide and claiming about 50 million lives. Thousands of doctors and nurses got infected and died while taking care of millions of patients. At one point, there were no doctors and nurses to provide services to patients in many hospitals in many parts of the world.
If we continue to comprise the health workers’ safety while dealing with COVID-19 patients or suspects, there will be more and more cases of doctors and nurses being infected and the whole health service will collapse in no time. Thousands and even millions may end up dying without receiving any medical help.
It may sound harsh but we need to protect our doctors and other health professionals to save our own lives. Our political leaders and top bureaucrats need to keep in mind that they will not be able to fly to Singapore, Bangkok or London to see a doctor anymore, at least, until the pandemic is over.