Shortage of anesthesiologists in public hospitals is causing immense suffering to surgery patients across the country, as patients have to wait for months to get serial for operation.
In all, public hospitals have an estimated 1,000 anesthetists against the need for at least 15,000, said Mozaffar Hossain, joint secretary of Bangladesh Society of Anesthesiologists.
Although surgery is impossible without them, the number has not increased compared to the number of surgeons in the last 30 years, he added.
Leaders of Bangladesh Society of Anesthesiologists say the government seems indifferent to the need for appointing more anesthesiologists.
Repeated appeals from the society and the directors of medical college hospitals to the health ministry for more anesthetists have gone in vain, they said.
Last year the society requested the ministry for the fifth time in the last few years in this regard.
The ministry in 2005 decided to create 250 new posts after one such request, but no government order was issued eventually.
Brig Gen Shahidul Haque Mallick, director of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said he sent a proposal for creating 2,000 new posts including 15 anesthetists for his hospital in last June. The ministry has yet to respond.
Health Secretary Mohammad Humayun Kabir says creating new posts is not easy. It needs involvement of the health, public administration (formerly known as establishment) and finance ministries.
"The process of creating new posts for anesthesiologists is underway," he told The Daily Star on Thursday.
Kabir, however, could not say when the process will yield result.
Surgeon-anesthesiologist ratio at DMCH is 25:1, which is usually 3:1 around the world, says Mozaffar of the society of anesthesiologists.
The 1,250-bed DMCH, country's biggest public hospital, is running with 14 anesthetists. The number remains the same since 1974 when the number of patients was less than half the present volume.
Around 1,400 surgeries take place at DMCH every month. The number could easily get to 1,800 had there been adequate anesthesiologists, doctors say, adding that it would have also reduced the number of casualties.
During a visit to the hospital yesterday, this correspondent found Subol Sarker of Satkhira waiting for a brain operation. He said he came 38 days ago.
“Doctors say they'll do an operation for my brain tumour. But they haven't fixed any date yet. I don't know how long I'll have to wait,” said the 55-year-old day labourer.
Doctors at the neurosurgery department said they will not be able to operate on all the waiting patients even in the next three months.
“The backlog of patients wouldn't have been such large had there been more operating theatres, neurosurgeons and anesthetists,” said Asif Moazzam Barkatullah, associate professor of neurosurgery at DMCH.
The situation in other public hospitals, especially those in district headquarters, is even worse.
The 800-bed Mymensingh Medical College Hospital is running with six anesthetists since 1962.
Junior consultants from upazila health complex are working there on deputation, hospital sources told The Daily Star.
Patients have to wait for over a month for operation, they said over the phone.
Just six anesthetists have to work in 14 operating theatres of Chittagong Medical College Hospital. The hospital needs at least 10 more.
Despite having all surgical equipment, no operation takes place at Khagrachhari District Sadar Hospital except for caesareans. The 100-bed hospital has neither an anesthetist nor any surgery consultant, said district Civil Surgeon AKM Ali Ashraf.
Civil surgeons of Rangpur District Sadar Hospital and Madaripur District Sadar Hospital, among others, also said they could not do a single operation in the last one year for lack of anesthetists and surgeons.