WITH a sharp rise in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, it has become crucial for hospitals to be equipped with advanced, high-tech diagnostic and treatment equipment. While public hospitals are equipped with such equipment, a large number of the equipment are out of order. The three main hospitals in the capital city — Dhaka Medical College, Sir Salimullah Medical College and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospitals — do not have their critical medical devices in order, which turns away patients. In the DMCH radiology department, a teletherapy machine has been out of order for years. The situation in Mitford Hospital is even grimmer. Medical devices essential for smooth functioning of an operation theatre have been broken for months. In this situation, patients are every day left with no option but to seek services from private hospitals, which are hugely expensive, with such a cost leaving long-term economic impact on their lives. This has been the situation for quite some time now that the essential medical equipment such as dialysis machines or ventilators in intensive care units are left dysfunctional with shockingly no intervention of any authorities concerned.
When asked about the disrepair and non-functional machines, hospital authorities blamed lengthy bureaucratic processes as they requires an inspection by the National Electro-Medical Equipment Maintenance Workshop. During inspections, the agency assesses the problem and fix the apparatus, if possible, or else inform a ministerial committee. The committee along with the maintenance agency then jointly conduct another assessment. The entire process could take several months while patients and health services, meanwhile, suffer. The maintenance agency officials, on the other hand, think that the workshop is understaffed and in desperate need of restructuring of its organogram that was designed in 1985. There are now only 13 diploma engineers to attend to requests for the maintenance of 610 hospitals across the country. Besides, public hospital such as Dhaka Medical College Hospital has about 30,000 equipment and one technician without specialised training to look after them. Hospital authorities and the maintenance agency have suggested that the maintenance system needs to be modernised keeping to advancement in medical technology. Some patients, however, also claim that hospital authorities are at times intentionally negligent about repair issues as they have direct or indirect monetary interest in private diagnostic facilities as effective subsidised hospital services affect their business. It is unfortunate that the maintenance of life-saving technologies which should have been treated as emergency issue has remained unattended.
It is assuring that the finance ministry has recently approved a draft organogram with 281 personnel for the maintenance agency. Considering the suffering of patients and an increase in health expenditure of working class people, the government must expedite the implementation of the new organogram and equip the workshop with adequate personnel to attend repair requests from hospitals early. It must also form dedicated maintenance cells with proper resources so that they do not remain dependent on the national maintenance agency.
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