DGHS relied on Regent hospital despite its lacks

Regent Group chairman Md Shahed alias Shahed Karim, the chief accused in Regent Hospital's coronavirus test scam, was brought to Dhaka by helicopter on 15 July.
Regent Group chairman Md Shahed alias Shahed Karim, the chief accused in Regent Hospital's coronavirus test scam, was brought to Dhaka by helicopter on 15 July. Prothom Alo file photo

A female physician had to flee from her workplace, Regent hospital, as she had been the only physician there and had to work throughout the day.

The physician, wishing to be anonymous, came to know about the Regent hospital job through a Facebook post by its chairman Md Shahed alias Shahed Karim, who was detained over issuing of fake coronavirus test reports and fraudulence.

She was appointed at the hospital’s Mirpur branch and was the only physician of the hospital, she alleged.

The physician said, she had to perform duty from early morning till late night. She had to quit the job within one and a half months. She also said the hospital had no medical equipment at the time.

Despite shortage of instruments and facilities at the hospital, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) signed a contract for coronavirus treatment with Regent hospital. Notably, the hospital was mentioned as a modern hospital in the document of the agreement.

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The female physician, however, is now working for a hospital in the capital’s Gulshan. She did not wish to disclose her name as she has been preparing to file a case against Shahed to claim her arrears.

She said, she had quit the job after a month when the DGHS appointed government physicians for coronavirus treatment. She was brought back after 10 days on request and appointed at the Uttara branch of Regent hospital.

Though she was appointed for Tk 50,000 per month, she was paid only Tk 30,000 after one and a half months. She left the job after that.

The physician alleged that other government physicians also could not continue their duty in the hospital.

Two other physicians who worked for Regent hospital said, although Shahed mentioned that the hospitals had Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in the document, they had never seen any ventilator or dialysis machine in the hospital.

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Although there was a system of central oxygen supply at the hospital, there was no manpower to monitor whether the supply of oxygen was uninterrupted.

There had been cases where the physicians had to remove an oxygen mask from someone else to save another’s life who was seriously ill, said the physicians. The physicians sometimes received tests reports of emergency cases from other labs after two days as there were no test facilities at the hospital.

One of the physicians said they did not know about the fake certificate issued by the Regent hospital. However, they often found the patients who showed signs of COVID-19 but their reports appeared negative.

They had advised many patients to test from outside while treated many others considering the symptoms of the disease.

Asked about accommodation and food, they said they had been allowed to stay in the chairman's room at the hospital whereas government appointed physicians work one week, stay one week in isolation in hotels and one week at home.

Every night after 12 o'clock, the chairman would come to the hospital with armed bodyguards to hold meetings. He used to say everything except salary and allowances, said the physicians.

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Contract with DGHS

Regent Hospital's contract with the DGHS was valid from March to September. According to the agreement, the hospital had come forward with a great initiative amid the chaotic health system of the country. Their slogan is 'service all the time'. They had come forward with specialist physicians, general practitioners, nurses, paramedics, sophisticated biomedical equipment, it said.

The agreement further stated that the hospital had all types of services at its two branches in Mirpur and Uttara. Besides, it mentioned of a laboratory and radiology department for testing, a hotel called Milina that had 36 rooms for health workers to stay in quarantine and three ambulances operating 24/7.

The Regent hospital was supposed to provide free medical treatment to any patient sent by DGHS. All the expenses were on DGHS.

It has not been confirmed yet that on what basis DGHS gave this certificate to Regent Hospital. In the meantime, DGHS has been holding the ministry responsible while the ministry has been blaming DGHS.

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RAB to look into Shahed’s case, ACC prepares to file case

Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) will investigate the case against Shahed. The home ministry gave its approval on Tuesday in response to the RAB's request. RAB Law and Media Branch director lieutenant colonel Ashiq Billah confirmed this to media.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been preparing a case against Shahed and four others. Apart from Shahed and the hospital's managing director Ibrahim Khalil, two NRB Bank officials are also being charged in the case. The ACC said the four were involved in embezzling Tk 15.1 million from 9 November 2014 to 15 January 2016.

The ACC's complaint against the accused further said that no money was deposited in the account at the time of opening the current account of Regent Hospital. Md Shahed is a new client of NRB Bank. He opened the bank account on 17 November 2014.Two officials of the bank, Sohanur Rahman and Wahid bin Ahmed, sent SME banking loan recommendations for Shahed just the day before the account was opened.

There has been no transaction till the loan was sanctioned. Md Shahed had no previous experience in the hospital business. No information was collected on whether Shahed had any investments or transactions in any other bank or any other business. Even, no mortgage was taken for the loan’s security. Proper supervision was not conducted before or after the loan disbursement.

According to the complaint, the loan instalments were not repaid on time as per the terms of the loan grant. Shahed opened an FDR in the name of Regent Hospital on the terms of loan sanction. Later, the bank closed the FDR and adjusted the loan as Shahed did not repay the loan. It seems Shahed never repaid the loan deliberately. He took a loan to embezzle money from the bank.