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21 July, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Irregularities rule DMCH

RIFAT ISLAM, Dhaka

The Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), the country’s largest government medical institution that treats thousands of patients from across the country every day, is plagued by corruption and irregularities. On visiting the hospital compound, this correspondent found out that many of the medical services, including outdoor services and emergency services, were being run by a group of syndicates that virtually control the inside operations of the hospital compound, and call the shots.

Patients and their relatives complain of being held hostage to this corrupt system, saying they spent hours to seek medical attention, all to no avail. Ultimately they had to grease the palm of those touts to get the services they seek.

"A horrid odour is the first thing someone will notice on entering this hospital. But the worst aspect is the harassment by fraudulent brokers if you seek any service at this hospital," complained Tareq, a patient of dengue.

The hospital has services like surgery, pathology, radiology, ECG, ultrasonography and many other modern services. Yet, the doctors refer most of its patients to its nearest private hospitals and pathological clinics which charge high fees. Patients complained that a lion’s share of these

commissions come around to line the pockets of those brokers and doctors from the institutions referred to.

Apart from the illegal charges on admitting patients, providing ambulances or any other services a patient might need. Here, from getting life-saving blood to getting a dead body released, nothing works without illicit charges. Such corruption and irregularities are gone so far that they are being openly practised. At the entrance of the hospital is written at different points: ‘Be careful of frauds’. But in reality, nothing can be done without them. Even the complaint number mentioned on those boards has been erased with a green colour.

Runa, a 16-year-old girl suffering from pneumonia, was ousted from the bed by the staff. Her relatives wept, saying that she was shifted to the veranda, which is infested with mosquitoes and has no fan. Yet, they pointed out that there were plenty of seats vacant in that attached ward of the New Building. This reporter, along with her relatives, searched for the doctor on duty during that night shift. But his room (No. 632) was locked from outside. A couple of doctors in Room No. 631 said, "There are usually two emergency doctors on the night shift. The duty doctor has possibly gone outside

for some reason.” Many patients complained that there is always a shortage of adequate doctors and nurses. “Even in times of need we couldn’t find doctors on duty. Also, we got only a handful of medicines from the hospital. We have to buy them from outside pharmacies at prices higher than what the medicines actually cost.”

A pharmacist named Azim said, “We have to give mandatory bribes to the hospital staff and law enforcement officials to let us know if any magistrate is coming to conduct a raid. Also there’s the levy of the ‘Drug Association.’

When The Independent asked him why they’re bound to collude in this graft, he replied: “It’s complicated.”

Patients also complained that representatives from various pharmaceutical companies snatch the prescription receipts from patients and cross-check with the lists of their respective companies’ medicines. Some unscrupulous doctors of the hospital have been accused of putting down the names of medicines of different companies in lieu of commission.

When this reporter found out these irregularities at the hospital, the director, Brig. Gen. AKM Nasir Uddin, rebuffed the reporter, saying: “Why did you go about seeing things without informing me?” Later on, admitting these inconsistencies, he said, “The people who are illegally working here are also providing services to patients. He’s also a citizen of this country. An earning member for his family. As we have just a ninth of the manpower we need, we can’t even stop this malpractice.”

“No hospital will take patients after 2.30 pm but we provide 24-hour facilities. Here, one unit consists of 400 patients where it should be 50. The government has provided us resources for that. Apart from this, there is a deficit of 500 staffers among 4,300,” Nasir Uddin added.

Mentioning the institution’s resource crisis, he added: “Among 4,000 admitted patients we’ve room for 2,600 patients. So, I’ve to hinder a minimum of 1,400 patients. Even for that we can’t meet international standards. The World Health Organization’s criterion is nine persons for one patient: one doctor, three nurses and five auxiliary persons. So, we’ll need a manpower of at least 6,000 to handle this whole hospital.”                            

But patients complained that most of the staffers do not provide services as they want outsiders to work in lieu of extra income.

The Independent found, for example, an outsider worker named Achiya Banu in front of the X-ray room of the new building. She claimed she was providing ‘special services’ there. The reporter observed that she, with the help of the hospital official guard, created an artificial barrier even when there was no patient inside, causing a long row of patients. Having no option, many patients had no choice but to bribe them and go in for their tests. Patients complained that the environment of the hospital is quite unhealthy. Bad odours and diseases from the dirty garbage also make the patient’s relatives sick. The hospital toilets are dysfunctional and inadequate. Because of the negligence of the cleaners, many patients’ relatives were seen cleaning these.

Allegations have been made that staffers administer saline to the patients and take blood from donors though they do not have any training for that. Among many such incidents one that recently occurred is that of a Dhaka University student named Shariful Islam.

His blood was taken by a cleaner of the hospital on the night of July 8 when there were two technicians available. Later on, the ‘donor’ got blue bruises on his hands and could barely move them.

The hospital official assured him that they’ll take proper action but no steps have been taken.

Outside the administrative building of the DMCH, ironically, large posters have been put up, saying “I and my organization are corruption free”—Brigadier General AKM Nasir Uddin.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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