As the country is reeling from a series of corruptions amid the COVID-19 crisis, the health sector has witnessed some of the major changes including the appointment of a new director general of the Directorate General of Health Services on Thursday.
The health ministry appointed Dhaka Medical College surgery professor Abul Bashar Md Khurshid Alam as the new director general of the DGHS while the DGHS director for hospitals and clinics Aminul Hasan was made an officer on special duty.
Earlier on the day, the public administration ministry in a circular cancelled the contractual appointment of professor Abul Kalam Azad, who submitted his resignation on Tuesday amid widespread criticism of corruption in the health sector.
Public health experts said that the changes in the positions in the health sector would not bring about major positive changes, especially in reducing the irregularities and mismanagement in the health sector.
‘Removal or replacement of a few persons will not bring any expected result unless the health system is not reformed,’ said Rashid-e-Mahbub, a former president of Bangladesh Medical Association.
‘The changes are just akin to rubbing balms on the wound,’ he said, adding that the health system had been paralysed by unchecked and undue political influence and lack of monitoring and accountability.
‘A reformation is needed when the ministry will frame the policies and the DGHS will execute them with full autonomy at the field level within accountability and monitoring mechanism,’ said Rashid, a former pro-vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University.
Despite the latest changes in the DGHS and a few others lately, including the removal of Central Medical Stores Depot director after corruption was detected in procurement and supply of medical supplies, including fake N95 masks, and transfer of health secretary Asadul Islam, no officials in the ministry and the DGHS took responsibilities for the corruptions and nor were they punished.
Even the disputed health secretary Asadul Islam was transferred with a promotion as senior secretary to the planning ministry, although the outgoing director general Abul Kalam Azad pointed the finger at him for the much-talked about deal with Regent Hospital, which was found to be involved in issuing fake COVID-19 certificates and running the hospital without a licence.
Despite the health sector facing widespread criticism over massive irregularities, exposed one after another during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the health ministry and the DHGS traded blames and defended themselves claiming that they were not involved in corruption.
Scams involving the health sector were also exposed of late, including N95 mask scams, controversial deals with Regent Hospital and non-profit JKG Health Care, which were accused of selling fake COVID-19 certificates and running the facilities without a license, and illegal antibody tests at Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital.
On July 12, DGHS outgoing DG Abul Kalam Azad said that the deal with Regent Hospital was struck upon instructions from the health ministry high-ups, sparking an apparent discord between the ministry and the DGHS over their involvement in the irregularities. The ministry on July 13 asked Azad to explain the words ‘instructions from ministry high-ups’ in his written comment.
In his reply to the ministry, Azad said that the agreement with Regent Hospital was signed upon the verbal instruction from the then health secretary Asadul Islam.
‘I didn’t tell lies,’ he told reporters as he came out of the health ministry after submitting his written reply over the remarks that the ministry high-ups instructed to sign the deal with Regent Hospital.
Health secretary Abdul Mannan said that Azad was asked to submit proof of receiving instruction from the ministry high-ups for the Regent deal.
Health minister Zahid, secretary Asadul and several secretaries were present at the official signing event with Regent Hospital. The hospital is owned by now detained Md Shahed, whose pictures with top government officials and ruling Awami League senior leaders were being circulated on social media.
Azad, who also got infected with COVID-19 and recovered, drew fire from the government ministers and general people alike last month after insisting that the coronavirus might stay in the country for the next few years.
He later regretted his comment.
On Tuesday, he submitted his resignation to the public administration ministry, which later issued a notification on Thursday saying said that his contractual appointment was cancelled, effective from July 21, 2020.
Azad, a biomedical professor and a graduate from Dhaka Medical College, was appointed as DG in August 2016.
His term expired in 2019 but he was appointed on contractual basis for two more years. His contract was supposed to end in March 2021.
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