Healthcare sector oversight, regulation a must

Published at 12:05am on July 18, 2018

The High Court’s observation that health ministry cannot avoid the liability for the damage of eye sights of 20 patients following cataract operations at Impact Masudul Haque Memorial Community Health Centre in Chuadanga on March 5 is welcome as it was the Drug Administration’s responsibility to see how the health centre received and used bacteria-contaminated medicine in the operation. The court passed its observation in response to a public interest litigation writ petition. The court ruling asked the health ministry to explain what actions that the government took against the health centre and surgeons for making 19 people blind and damaging the sight of one eye of another. The court also asked the health ministry, health services director general and Impact Masudul Huq Memorial Community Health Centre to explain why they would not be directed to pay compensations to the victims.
An expert committee investigation report that the ministry submitted to the court earlier said in clear terms that eye sights of 20 patients were damaged following bacterial infection. The committee blamed faulty operation and faulty process of freeing the medicine and other surgical equipment of bacteria for the damage of the eye sights. Transparency International, Bangladesh called on the authorities a few days ago to strengthen surveillance on the healthcare sector and ensure accountability of individuals and healthcare organisations violating rules, which is justifiable. TIB also passed a comment on the fining of Apollo Hospitals. Its observation was — fining Apollo Hospitals only Tk 5 lakh for keeping expired reagents and unauthorised foreign medicines was pointless as this measure by the authorities would not have any deterrent effect although Apollo Hospitals’ action was a testimony to below-standard healthcare services, which is alarming for public health. If expired reagents are used in such a hospital, anybody can surmise how many irregularities resulting in health hazards are there in other hospitals and clinics. That healthcare system, as a whole, is in an abysmal state is evidenced in the fact that emergency and primary healthcare services are riddled with corruption, irregularities and mismanagement. What is alarming is that because of the lack of necessary policy, inspection and supervision and the effect of commercialisation, the private medical sector has also plunged into an abysmal state.
Overall, the current state of healthcare system, obviously, does not bolster the confidence about reposing full trust in the government with regard to its much-touted promise of ensuring health for all. It is imperative for the health ministry, health services directorate general and Impact Masudul Huq Memorial Community Health Centre, at the moment, to abide by the ruling of the High Court by paying compensation to the 20 victims, to start with.