DHAKA: Every year, about 600,000 people in Bangladesh suffer burn injuries, with the majority of them occurring at home.

As a result, hospital burn units are constantly overflowing with patients.

At the current Dhaka College and Hospital, for instance, the burn unit at the A&E department sees about 250 patients every day. Of these, only about 10 patients are able to be admitted due to space constraints.

To help doctors and nurses build capabilities in treating burn patients, healthcare professionals from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have been working closely with hospitals in Bangladesh with the aim of improving survival outcomes. 

The collaboration comes under a three-year Memorandum of Understanding signed in April this year between the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Singapore’s largest healthcare group SingHealth as well as Temasek Foundation International.

One of the top causes of burns in Bangladesh is due to open-fire cooking.

Afsana is one of many women who suffered burns as a result of their sarees catching fire when they use open-fire stoves.

Making matters worse, the 14-year-old has a history of epilepsy. She had a seizure near the stove at her house which caused her to suffer burns covering 24 per cent of her body.

Nasima tending to her 14-year-old daughter Afsana, who suffered burns while cooking near an open-fire cooking stove. (Photo: Vimita Mohandas)

Afsana’s mother Nasima, said: “She keeps telling me that she is in so much of pain that she wants to kill herself.”

Bangladesh’s State Minister for Health, Zahid Malik, spoke of the need to train its medical staff in order to offer better treatment.

“In order to treat a large number of patients, we don’t have adequate medical facilities in Bangladesh. Our Prime Minister also felt the need for an institute where we can not only treat our people but train our people,” he said on Saturday (Nov 25). 

“With this collaboration, we feel that our doctors and nurses will be trained with knowledge and experiences that will be world class.”

Burn patients waiting to be admitted to Dhaka Medical College and Hospital. (Photo: Vimita Mohandas)

The multi-disciplinary team from Singapore General Hospital aims to train 300 specialists and 10 hospital leaders in areas such as reconstructive surgery, surgical wound management of massive burns and rehabilitation.

The training will be extended to another 900 nurses over three years.

SingHealth said a key focus of this project is to help the Bangladesh burn unit create a more systematic approach to their training and empower nurses and allied health workers to take on expanded roles.

“We have analysed from our Bangladeshi counterparts that their nursing as well as allied health professionals need to have a more systematic approach to training and empowering them are the key aims of the project,” said Dr Chong Si Hack, consultant at the plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery department at SGH.

“One of the key highlights of the projects are nurses leading and administering analgesia so that they can carry our large dressings in Bangladesh. This is particularly important given the high incidence of burns in Bangladesh,” he added. 

“With the nurses being empowered and able to carry out a procedure such as dressing change, this will benefit more patients and lead to better outcome for the patients eventually.”

In addition, patients will soon benefit from the new 500-bed Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute which is expected to be ready by the end of next year.



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