Patients hostage to private hospitals, clinics: HC

DGHS asked to submit probe report on treatment refusal allegations by Aug 16

M Moneruzzaman | Published: 23:43, Jul 22,2020


The High Court on Wednesday asked the health ministry to strengthen its monitoring on the activities of private hospitals and clinics for holding hostage their patients and involvement in irregularities, including treatment refusal. 

The online bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim also said that the government should not give an impression that it was trying to justify the wrongdoings of the owners of the private hospitals and clinics.

The court quoted media report as saying that the owners of the private hospitals and clinics demanded that Shahabuddin, the owner of illegally run-Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital, be freed after the Rapid Action Battalion arrested and sealed off the hospital.

The bench made the above observations to attorney general Mahbubey Alam while hearing five public interest writ petitions in which on July 6 the court ordered probe into the allegations of treatment refusal which led to the death of many COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients across the country.

The bench however gave the health secretary and the director general of the Directorate of Health Services until August 16 to submit a report on the progress of probes they had undertook over the denial of treatments as alleged by the PIL writ petitioners.

The court asked the secretary and the DG of the health services to submit the report after investigating the allegations made by the petitioners.

The DGHS said that the two monitoring teams which were constituted earlier to investigate allegations of treatment refusals started probes into such allegations against the Dhaka Medical College Hospital and Mughda General Hospital, and Trauma Centre, a private hospital in the capital.

It also said that the divisional monitoring teams led by directors (health) of the DGHS and the district monitoring teams led by respective civil surgeons sought time to complete probes into alleged treatment denied by other hospitals and clinics.

It said that the DGHS in complying the HC directive opened email [email protected] for people to lodge complaints regarding treatment denial, asked government hospitals authorities and the leaders of the private hospitals and clinics owners’ associations and the nurse associations to continue treatment of cancer and kidney dialysis patients after conducting COVID-19 tests.

The DGHS, however, said that it had no mechanism to monitor oxygen price but it considered asking the Directorate General of Drug Administration to ensure sale of each oxygen cylinder at Tk 15,000.

Petitioners’ lawyers Aneek R Haque and Yeadia Zaman submitted that the writ petitions were not filed against the doctors as the attorney general argued, but the private hospitals and clinics’ owners who forced the doctors to materialise their wishes even if that amounted to a crime.

The attorney general said that the government arrested the regent hospital’s owner Shahed Karim as part of taking action against private hospitals.

On July 6 the same bench issued a five-point directive, including investigation into allegations of treatment refusal and submission of a report by July 21.

These directives asked the aggrieved persons to file complaints to the Anti-Corruption Commission, sought action against private hospitals and clinics for imposition of access bills from COVID 19 patients, ACC action after conducting investigation into the people or institutions against whom such allegations are brought, Drug Administration to fix price of oxygen cylinders and their refilling within 10 working days, hospitals to conduct COVID-19 test of all cancer and kidney dialysis patients on a priority basis and supply reports within 48 hours to follow up their treatment.

The court issued the five-point directive after the Directorate General of Health Services in a report said that it had taken no action against owners of private hospitals and clinics since no allegations of negligence of treatment were found against them.

The five directives were issued on July 6 after hearing the five pending PIL writ petitions filed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s deputy registrar Sheikh Abdullah Al Mamun, four Supreme Court lawyers Nazmul Huda, Jamiul Hoque Faisal, Mehedi Hasan and AKM Ehsanur Rahman and Aynoonnahar Siddeque and another new writ petition filed by two aggrieved persons, Jebul Hasan and Helal Uddin, who had prayed for a directive to compensate the families of all patients who died because of the denial of treatment by both public and private hospitals.

Jebul Hasan, a businessman, filed the petition stating that his mother was denied treatment by two private hospitals in Chattogram recently.

Helal Uddin’s father Md Hossain died on July 2 after being denied treatment allegedly by Park View hospital, also in Chattogram.

He said that the police were dithering in recording a case against the hospital authorities for the negligence that caused his father’s death. The hospital authorities did not admit his father without a COVID-19 certificate.

The petitioner’s lawyer Yeadia Zaman had drew the attention of the High Court to a report published in the Kaler Kantha on June 27 under the headline ‘Seven days’ oxygen bills were charged after giving oxygen for 30 minutes’.

The petitioners had submitted to the court a report stating that 20 patients died because they were denied treatment at several renowned hospitals.   

Earlier on June 15 Justice Enayetur Rahim’s bench issued 11 directives, eight of which were stayed by the Appellate Division on June 16 following the government’s appeal.

One of the eight directives, stayed by the Appellate Division, said that the denial of treatment by government or private hospitals or clinics resulting in the death of the patient would constitute a criminal offence of causing death by negligence.

The Appellate Division upheld three directives, including one seeking report from the health secretary and the health services director general by June 30 on separate treatment for COVID-19 patients.

The second directive banned the sale of oxygen cylinders without prescriptions and identification of the patients and asked the commerce ministry and the Consumers Association of Bangladesh to fix the prices of oxygen cylinders and their refilling and to put the price chart on display at the shops.

The Appellate Division also upheld the directive to strengthen the monitoring by the health secretary and the DGHS to prevent private hospitals and clinics from realising excessive bills for treatment.

The 11 directives was issued after hearing five joint writ petitions of SC lawyers and BSMMU deputy registrar Abdullah Al Mamun.

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