THE corruption unravelled in the public health sector, in one incident after another, shows the government’s disregard for life. While the sector has been plagued with irregularities for a while now, the scale of corruption has become evident during the COVID-19 outbreak. Incidents from the procurement of personal protective gear by the Central Medical Stores Depot to the sale of forged COVID-19-negative certificates all take a serious toll on public health. On the allegations of falsifying COVID-19 test reports, two branches of Regent Hospital were sealed off by the Rapid Action Battalion on Tuesday. In March, the hospital authorities made an agreement with the Directorate General of Health Services that it would provide COVID-19 treatment free. In reality, it forged about 6,000 test reports and embezzled Tk 3 crore from the government against the free treatment ploy. The government went into the agreement without much scrutiny of the hospital’s on-site medical infrastructure or official records. It is now evident that the hospital does have neither functioning intensive care units nor diagnostic centres nor the required registration. Such a regulatory failure is a sign of sheer negligence, if not an intentional oversight.
In the name of providing free COVID-19 treatment, Regent Hospital has scammed people. It collected about 10,000 samples, but ran tests on only 4,200 samples and provided certificates for every sample each for a fee of Tk 3,500. Regent Hospital is, however, not the first case of COVID-19 certificate forgery. In June, the chief executive officer of JKG Health Care was arrested on charges of forging COVID-19 test results. Law enforcers claim to have detected about a dozen syndicates that sell such forged certificates. They provide a certificate for Tk 5,000–9,000. In cooperation with some hospital staff, the syndicates mainly target people in need of certificates to go abroad. As for Regent Hospital, it is alleged that the owner may have used his political clout to earn the agreement with the health services directorate general, but it is the ultimate expression of regulatory failure and lack of integrity of government officials in the public health sector.
Considering grave consequences of the sale of forged certificates that it directly creates a hole in the prevention system by allowing possible COVID-19-positive people to be in public when they are supposed to be in isolation or quarantine, the government must immediately take action against all involved in forging COVID-19 certificates including the owner of Regent Hospital. It must also investigate the allegation that a group involving government official, hospital staff and medical technicians at testing centres work as the syndicate to illegally sell certificates. The government must act as corruption in the health sector has a much greater ramification and the health consequence is even costlier during an outbreak.
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