THAT the public healthcare system is in an abysmal state is partially evidenced in the fact that the country’s prison hospitals are riddled with umpteen problems, the most important one being acute shortage of medical facilities with 93 per cent posts of doctors remaining vacant. According to officials, as New Age reported on Monday, there are at present only six permanent doctors to attend around 75,000 inmates at 68 prisons across the country. The inspector general of prisons revealed at a press conference on Sunday that all these prisons were running with such a small number of permanent doctors against 117 approved posts. Each of these prisons has one hospital and the number of beds in each hospital ranges between 20 and 200. What has aggravated the situation, according to the IG prisons, is that the posts of a good number of nurses still remain vacant.
With some 537 mentally ill patients, 7,135 drug addicts and 278 children staying in jails among the prisoners, these hospitals are virtually grappling with giving healthcare services to these patients as these hospitals remain hamstrung with such a small number of doctors and nurses. These prisons have only nine ambulances to run their activities. The hospital authorities encounter numerous problems while managing patients in prison hospitals round the clock and are obliged to send some patients to hospitals outside the prisons. The government needs to take into account that a good number of patients among the inmates suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure and they need round the clock healthcare service. But in the absence of proper intensive care units and other medical equipment in these hospitals these critical patients fail to get that. That serious patients with respiratory problems are being referred to other hospitals seems to point to utter carelessness of the authorities concerned in paying attention to the needs of patients. Not only these prison hospitals but also some public hospitals are struggling to provide essential healthcare services to patients because of lack of necessary medical equipment and adequate number of members of staff. This grim picture tends to show that the margin between what the government thinks about its successes and what has come about in reality has not diminished. Its political rhetoric that it is in full control over the healthcare sector, therefore, sounds absurd and preposterous. It should abstain from this kind of self-indulgence.
Be that as it may, health is a basic right of the people, which is enshrined in the constitution of Bangladesh. The government needs to realise that it is constitutionally obligated to ensure effective healthcare services for all including the patients of prison hospitals. As part of such an obligation, it needs to address the problems that are troubling not only these hospitals but the health sector as a whole in no time.
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