City Medical College Hospital running without permission

City Hospital building
City Hospital building

The 500-bed City Medical College Hospital in Gazipur, owned by Awami League member of parliament and former home minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, has been running for the past six years without any legal approval and without the minimum facilities for medical treatment. Visits to the hospital on Tuesday and Wednesday revealed that not a single patient has been admitted there. Yet students are being admitted to the City Medical College under special provisions.

Despite this state of the hospital, it had opened a 100-bed unit ostensibly for coronavirus treatment. However, after the Regent Hospital and JKG scams were flashed in the media, this unit was hurriedly shut down. The banner which had been displayed for COVID treatment was taken down on Monday.

Officials of the hospital said that in June it had been announced that the hospital would provide treatment for coronavirus cases. Pictures had been posted on the social media of a foreign patient being presented a bouquet of flowers as he left the hospital after being cured of coronavirus there. This was a publicity move to get coronavirus patients admitted to the hospital. But then the hospital authorities decided not to take any risk, after seeing consequence of the Regent and JKG fraud.

Prothom Alo investigations revealed that Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir had bought the hospital with the infrastructure in place. However, he did not actually pay the seller and so the original owner did not hand over the legal ownership documents.

The entire institution is running on an unlawful basis, according to sources in the health ministry, Dhaka University and City Hospital and Medical College. There is corruption and irregularities in the purchase and running of the hospital, in its medical treatment, in the opening of its bank account, in the admission of students, in its accounts and in every sphere.

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This former powerful bureaucrat managed to build up a bank, university, medical college and hospital before and after he had become the home minister. The legality of all of this had been questioned.

While he had been chairman of Farmers Bank, around Tk 30 billion (Tk 3000 crore) had been swiped from the bank. Bangladesh Bank investigations revealed that a portion of that money had been deposited in Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir’s bank account. The names of the audit committee chairman Mahbubul Haque Chisti and a few others came up in the inquiries into the matter. They were later removed and the bank was then named Padma Bank. Other than the bank and the medical college, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir also took approval for a private university. This institution, European University, is also running perfunctorily.

When asked about these matters, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir told Prothom Alo that we would talk at a later date about the bank and the attempts that had been made to implicate him in the matter. As for the private university, he said it was running like the other private universities and efforts were being made to improve it. He said that he had established many other educational institutions that were running well.

A 500-bed hospital required 150 physicians, but this hospital only has 40, many of whom are brought in temporarily from elsewhere. There should be 300 nurses, but there are actually only 15.

About City Hospital and Medical College, Mohiuddin Khan said he was mainly in charge of the academic side of the institution, particularly the medical college. The hospital was run by others. The medical college was closed at the moment and the students, both local and foreign, had left and it had no income. He admitted to shortcomings of the medical college, adding, “We are trying to fulfill all the required criteria. It has been possible to some extent, and some things haven’t been possible. That is how it is running.”

Covid unit U-turn

The hospital started up a 100-bed COVID unit, though it had no ICU, ventilator, high-flow oxygen meter or central oxygen facilities. It hardly even had any physicians or trained nurses. It had no PCR lab, but announcements had been made that COVID testing was being carried out there. Given these circumstances, the former proprietor of the medical college, SM Baduddoza, issued a letter requesting that the COVID treatment be halted.

Baduddoza told Prothom Alo that on Monday he had written to various authorities of the government on Monday, informing them about the overall condition of the college and hospital.

According to the regulations, a 500-bed hospital required 150 physicians, but this hospital only has 40, many of whom are brought in temporarily from elsewhere. There should be 300 nurses, but there are actually only 15. Other than physicians, the establishment has 102 staff members. Yet with just these human resources, a 100-bed COVID unit had been started up.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, the hospital’s general manager Abdul Hamid said, “We had wanted to work with a team of International Medical College Hospital. We have no PCR lab. We just wanted to collect samples here. But there were not enough patients and so we closed down this initiative.”

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The hospital’s managing director Refayet Ullah Sharif did not answer his phone nor reply to queries made over email in this regard. When a visit was made to the hospital to meet him, it was said that he was not there. No one could say where he was or how he could be contacted.

At the hospital it was said that the Covid unit had started on the basis of a letter from the health ministry. But a copy of the letter showed this was not the case. In a letter issued on 6 June from the health education department to all private medical colleges, a request was made for all the hospitals to continue with regular and emergency services, alongside government hospitals, at this crucial time of the country. Based on this letter the hospital took up Covid treatment.

Civil surgeon of Gazipur Md Khairuzzaman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that City Medical had not been given any permission to collect or test coronavirus samples. The matter would be probed.

The state of the hospital

City Medical College and Hospital has two buildings. One is located in Itahata Block B, the premises rented from the building owner Md Shahabuddin. A cleaner, Zafar Ali, said that the building was closed because of coronavirus. Classes would be held in this building.

A kilometer and a half from there is the other building, near the Chandana intersection, for medical treatment. A pharmacy the billing section, the emergency department and the chambers of a few physicians are located on the ground floor. On the first floor are the offices of the hospital’s chairman, director and other officials. The patients’ wards are on the second floor. The coronavirus unit is on the third floor. Not a single patent was seen admitted in the hospital.

When fees for the hospital’s trade licence fee was deposited with the Gazipur city corporation in August last year, it was described as a 500-bed hospital.

The hospital has only two specialist physicians in the medicine department. One has a FCPS degree, the other one has a diploma. Both of them are teachers of the medical college, and are not with the hospital. They go to the college in the morning and leave by 2:30 in the afternoon. There is one anaesthetist at the hospital who comes in four days a week.

A visit was made to the hospital on Tuesday and it was seen that no patients were admitted there. The hundreds of beds all lay empty. There were a handful of patents in the outpatient department. Sixty-year-old Md Shahabuddin of the village Majlispur in Gazipur had come there at 10 in the morning with his grandson Imran Hossain. Imran’s right eye was itching and hurting. Shahabuddin said he had seen a physician in the emergency department, but there was no one there for eye treatment.

One of the first and foremost criteria for a hospital, and a medical college, is to have its own building. However, this college is run in rented premises

Why was the hospital in such a deplorable state? Mohiuddin Khan replied that the area was a labour intensive one. People of the low income bracket were provided with primary medical care there. There was no provision for specialised treatment. When asked, then why did he open a 500-bed hospital, he replied it couldn’t be expected for things to be done overnight. There was also the question of investment.

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About the inadequate number of physicians and nurses, and also the fact that the hospital had no licence, Mohiuddin Khan said, “It is not easy to get physicians and nurses even if you want. Also, there is almost no income at all from the hospital and the medical college. Many hospitals have no licences. I have applied and have been verbally given the go-ahead to run the hospital.”

Several attempts were made to contact health minister Zahid Maleque about this matter, but he was unavailable. Further attempts were made to get a statement from the him through the public relations office of the health ministry and the minister’s personal secretary, but they failed to provide this even after waiting two days. However, an official of the ministry, on condition of anonymity, said there was no scope to run a 500-bed hospital on verbal approval.

Former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Mahmud Hasan inspected the City Medical College at least three times. Asked about his experience in inspecting the medical college, this senior physician said, “I visited it a few years ago and found many shortcomings in following the rules and regulations and so we did not recommend it to be recognised. But I don’t know later how it managed to get recognition.”

No building of its own

One of the first and foremost criteria for a hospital, and a medical college, is to have its own building. However, this college is run in rented premises and five floors of the hospital building belongs to SM Badruddoza. The college owns one floor. According to the rules, a hospital and medical college cannot be run in rented premises.

Dhaka University’s college inspector Md Mostafizur Rahman, speaking to Prothom Alo, said that in 2018 a condition was imposed that land was to be bought and a building constructed. Whether this was done or not will be ascertained during the next inspection. If not, action will be taken according to the rules.

How the college and hospital came about

A mural of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman catches the eye upon entering the college and hospital building. The plaque below states that the hospital was inaugurated on 19 March by its chairman Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir.

Physician SM Badruddoza in 2011-12 got permission for the City Medical College. But once he started the hospital, he fell prey to the local criminal gang of the ruling party. He eventually decided to sell the medical college. That was when Mohiuddin Khan bought the property.

Though Badruddoza handed over the institution, this was not approved with the joint stock company. As the full payment had not been made, he did not hand over ownership. But he stepped down as the chairman of the college’s governing body in 2017 and Mohiuddin Khan took over as chairman. But Mohiuddin Khan could not become the company’s chairman as the financial transaction remained incomplete.

Neither side wanted to open up about the financial transaction, but several reliable sources said that the transfer of the medical college and hospital amounted to almost Tk 150 million (Tk 15 crore). Payment of Tk 35 million (Tk 3.5 crore) was pending. While not wanting to talk about the transaction, Badruddoza said the dues were more.

A official of the college inspection office said if 70 to 80 percent of the health ministry’s conditions were followed, it would have been all right. But this medical college has not followed even 40 percent.

Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir said, “Badruddoza handed over the college to us because he was unable to run it. The translations will be settled though negotiations.”

Where rules do not exist

Refayet Ullah Sharif is unlawfully using the designation of managing director. There has been not meeting or decision made by the company after it changed hands, but he uses the designation of MD. He took 15 years to graduate from a private dental college in Dhaka. Under the new management, Sharif is Mohiuddin Khan’s partner in the college. Mohiuddin Khan owns 90 percent of the shares and Sharif 10 percent.

There had been no audit of the college and hospital accounts in the past four years. After 2014, the institution should have made a minimum income of Tk 500 million (Tk 50 crore), according to various sources, but the physicians and other staff haven’t been paid for the past 6 to 8 months.

A technician of the hospital said, “I haven’t received my salary in 6 months. I ask for it every day, but am not receiving it.”

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The medical college is not even inspected regularly. The last inspection took place in 2018. The Dhaka University college inspector said they had found many weaknesses in the last inspection and had imposed certain conditions to be fulfilled. Very soon an inspection will be carried out to see how far these have been fulfilled.

The health ministry, in the 2015-16 academic year, had revoked the recognition of the college. After that, even though the required conditions were not fulfilled, permission was given for the admission of students the next academic year based on a commitment. This is being repeated every year.

A official of the college inspection office, on condition of anonymity, said if 70 to 80 percent of the health ministry’s conditions were followed, it would have been all right. But this medical college has not followed even 40 percent.

The college’s principal, Md Yunus Ali Mandal, told Prothom Alo that he was not willing to comment on the matter.

Incidentally, the principal is over 65 years of age. According to the rules, he cannot be in the post of principal.

Three bank accounts of the college and hospital have been opened unlawfully. Bank accounts are opened on the basis of the written resolution of the majority of directors of companies registered with the joint stock company. But an account was opened with a local private bank with the signature of just one director of previous company, Refayet Ullah Sharif. The other two accounts are also illegal.

Former president, Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), Rashid-e-Mahbub told Prothom Alo, that the heading for the newspaper report should be ‘So this is a hospital too!’ He said that it was unfortunate that the laws, rules and regulations have been overlooked in the establishment, approval and running of this college and hospital.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir