Occupational Challenges and Physician Deaths During COVID-19 Pandemic

Document Type : Letter to Editor


1 Department of Research and Innovation, One Health Center for Research and Action, Akbarshah, Chattogram-4207, Bangladesh

2 Asian University for Women, Chattogram, Bangladesh

3 Chattogram Medical College Hospital, Chawkbazar, Chattogram-4203, Bangladesh


COVID-19 cases have rapidly expanded across the world since its first case was detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Globally, about 69,521,294 confirmed cases and 1,582,674deaths have been reported till 12th  December 2020.1 In Bangladesh, the first three COVID-19 cases were confirmed on 8th March 2020. Since then, cases have been rising, and by 12th December, a total of 489,178 confirmed cases have been reported with 7,020 deaths.2

Health care providers (HCP) all over the world are the most vulnerable group to the coronavirus infection as frontline fighters. In Bangladesh, the situation is poorer, as about 80,000 registered doctors out of 100,000 are dealing with COVID-19 patients as frontline fighters3 as the total workforce was not divided by a plan to combat this pandemic situation. Besides shortage, intensive care units (ICU) were not well standard for treating COVID patients and many hospitals were not equipped with a central oxygen line.4 These accelerate the early death of patients and infection to health care providers in Bangladesh.  Lack of negative air pressure in isolation units and intensive care units (ICU) causes the spread of infected aerosols to HCP while providing services to admitted patients. A continuous 12 hours of work time, as opposed to the usual eight hours, create a physical and mental strain on healthcare providers during the time pandemic. A young doctor in China died of a heart attack resulting in continuous work of 10 days.5 The people hiding COVID-like symptoms and infection due to the stigma when visiting doctors’ chambers or hospitals for seeking medical care put the doctors and other health care workers at great risks. At least 12 health workers, including five doctors, of a tertiary care hospital in Dhaka, were infected with the coronavirus because of performing surgery on a COVID-19 positive patient.6 Moreover, they experiencing avoidance from their community members and maltreatment from house owners due to unusual fear and stresses posed by the pandemic. which is leading to an increasing number of death of doctors and lowering the confidence level in doctors and healthcare providers in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the first death of a doctor (47 years) from COVID-19 was reported on April 15.7

According to the Indian Medical Association, the risk of death by COVID-19 is 17 times higher in doctors and 15 times more in healthcare workers.8 In the USA, healthcare providers are nearly 12 times more likely to COVID positive than the general population.9 In Bangladesh, the death rate of doctors was 4%, which was higher than the average standard mortality rate of 2.5% around the world.7 The Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) reported that, as of December 12, a total of 8135 healthcare providers including 2881 physicians, 1973 nurses, and 3281 other health staffers were infected with the COVID-19. Country witnessed the death of 113 registered doctors10 and the death toll of these frontline fighters is rising as the COVID-19 pandemic is persisting longer. Therefore, a collaborative action should be taken to ensure workplace safety, adequate PPEs, and proper training facilities to all healthcare providers to curb the infection and death rate among them.