Minimal action from time to time and lax monitoring by the authorities concerned did little or nothing to stop the unbridled malpractices by private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres across the country.
Manipulating laws with loopholes and amid a lack of manpower required for constant surveillance, these health facilities have continued their irregularities putting public health in jeopardy.
Inspection team of Directorate General of Health Services and mobile courts at different times unearthed massive anomalies at these facilities and punished them, but they resume doing what they did as ever before.
A DGHS inspection team on March 20 found that a private hospital’s diagnostic centre at Dhanmondi in the capital was using out-dated reagents during tests.
The team also found that well-known Ibn Sina Diagnostic and Imaging Centre also disposed of its medical wastes without following procedures.
A week later, the DGHS director for hospitals and clinics issued a show cause notice asking it to explain why it would not be shut down and its licences would not be cancelled for the malpractices.
Two months later, a DGHS official, who was in the inspection team, told New Age that Ibn Sina Diagnostic and Imaging Centre had neither been shut down nor its licence cancelled as its authorities promised that they would rectify their practices.
Two more months later, on July 4, a DGHS mobile court, led by a magistrate, realised Tk 2 lakh in fines from Ibn Sina Diagnostic and Imaging Centre after detecting that the same irregularities of using out-dated reagents for tests at its lab, which was also in an unhygienic condition.
On July 2, another DGHS mobile court realised Tk 25 lakh in fines from well-known Popular Diagnostic Centre at Dhanmondi after detecting that it was also using date-expired pathology reagents. The mobile court also found date-expired medicines at the diagnostic centre.
In September 2016, the same diagnostic centre was fined Tk 6 lakh by a mobile court for the same offence.
In March, the mother of a patient from Gopalganj complained to Rapid Action Battalion that when she, with her ailing daughter, was about to enter National Institute of Traumatology and
Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, when brokers took them to the nearby Crescent Hospital and Diagnostic Complex promising better treatment at lesser cost.
She came to realise what a grave mistake she done only after her daughter was admitted there, she lamented, saying Crescent Hospital demanded a high amount and without it they refused to treat her daughters’ injured leg.
Following her complaint, a RAB mobile court, led by magistrate Sarwoer Alam, and comprising DGHS officials on March 28 raided Crescent Hospital and Diagnostic Complex and detected massive irregularities.
‘We found an injured man lying unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor of the operation theatre, blood oozing out from his injured leg,’ Sarwoer told New Age.
‘The injured man was left unattended for over 24 hours as he could not pay the huge amount of money demanded by the hospital,’ he said.
The man died of excessive bleeding a day later after he was sent to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Sarwoer said that the mobile court detected that two fake surgeons were engaged by the hospital for performing operations.
The mobile court sealed Crescent Hospital and arrested the two fake surgeons and five staff.
The mobile court also realised Tk 10 lakh in fine from the hospital for charging exorbitant amount as treatment costs.
During the raid, all the patients of the hospital complained that they had been brought there by brokers when they were waiting in front of NITOR.
Sarwoer said that the owner of Crescent Hospital, Abul Hossain, and his brother Nur Nabi committed massive irregularities time and again.
They were so desperate that they opened new hospitals at the same place after the previous ones were sealed.
The mobile court sealed Makka-Madina Hospital, Mariam Hospital, New Well Care Hospital and the Crescent Hospital, all owned by the two siblings.
‘Even,’ he said, ‘four ministers recommended issuing fresh licences for Makka-Madina Hospital after it was sealed in November 2017.’
However, the application was turned down by the DGHS.
DGHS director for hospitals and clinics Kazi Jahangir Hossain said that due to manpower shortage they were failing to inspect the hospitals and clinics.
There were about 10,000 private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic laboratories in Dhaka only and it was not possible for the officials to inspect them regularly, he said.
The DGHS inspected only 66 hospitals and 129 diagnostic centres in five months from January to May and shutdown 15 of them, said officials.
Jahangir said that the owners of the errant hospital always got away with irregularities because no law prevented them from getting fresh licence after they were caught for irregularities.
‘The punishments are not severe enough to discourage them from repeating the irregularities,’ he explained.
Under the Medical Practice and Private Clinics and Laboratories (Regulation) Ordinance, 1982, a registered medical practitioner or the owner of a laboratory could be fined up to Tk 5,000 for irregularities.
In case of a private clinic, the owner could be jailed for six months with or without fines.
The licence fees are as low as Tk 5,000 for a hospital and Tk 1,000 for a diagnostic laboratory.
Bangladesh Private Clinic and Diagnostic Owners Association president Moniruzzaman Bhuiya said, ‘Although the private health sector is playing a key role, only our mistakes were magnified.’
‘We provide 60 per cent of the health service to the people,’ Moniruzzaman claimed, saying that they were working hard to ensure that the owners followed the rules.
A study released in February by Transparency International Bangladesh said that the private hospitals and diagnostic centres with a motive to make quick money mushroomed rapidly.
It said the private health centres were mostly unregulated and beset with irregularities.
Rights activist and TIB trustee board president Sultana Kamal said that there was no mechanism in place to keep private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres under watch.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Miscellany