City Hospital building
City Hospital building

The 500-bed City Medical College Hospital in Gazipur, owned by former minister Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir MP, has been fined Tk 750,000 by the RAB mobile court. The authorities failed to prove that the hospital has any permission to run. However, the mobile court did not seal up the hospital as the health ministry had given all hospitals up till 23 August to obtain or renew their licences. City Hospital has also been given this time to do so.

The government’s taskforce committee and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) carried out this drive jointly on Monday. This was the first drive conducted by the taskforce committee since it was formed on 23 July. The raid was launched at 12:24 in the afternoon on the City Medical College Hospital located at the Chandana intersection of Gazipur.

On 30 July, Prothom Alo ran a report, ‘City Medical College Hospital running without permission’. The report pointed out how this hospital, owned by Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, was running without the required permission. A visit to this 500-bed hospital found not a single patient admitted. And while the hospital did not have facilities for basic medical treatment, it had opened a 100-bed Covid unit.

RAB executive magistrate Md Sarwar Alam told Prothom Alo that the details of the Prothom Alo report appeared to be true. The hospital had no licence. A large amount of surgical equipment which had crossed the dates of expiry were seized from the hospital’s operation theatre. He said the hospital had not been sealed up immediately as the health ministry had given up till 23 August for hospitals to obtain or renew their licences. If the permission was not taken by then, legal action would be taken.

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Sarwar Alam said that during the raid they had found no evidence of any Covid testing or treatment facilities at the hospital, though in the past they may have made such arrangements.

Also present during the raid were joint secretary (hospitals) of the health ministry’s health service division, Umme Salma Tanzia, and RAB-1 Gazipur commander Abdullah Al Mamun.

According to eye-witness accounts, many officials and employees of the hospital fled when they got news of the raid. The mobile court began its drive from the first floor of the hospital. They seized various testing equipment with expired dates from there. They learnt from the lab technicians there that in some cases reports were given without even taking any tests. They could not produce any documents required to run a lab.

A tour of the hospital wards revealed rows and rows of beds, but no patients. The team then went to the second floor to inspect the operation theatre. Date-expired surgical equipment was seized from there. Manufactured in 2014, these equipment were to be used by 2017, but were still being used to perform surgery on patents. The team also seized large amounts of date-expired medicines from the pharmacy at the hospital’s entrance.

Sarwar Alam said the date of use of some of the drugs had expired five to six years ago. Also, a certain licence was required for blood transfusions, but the hospital did not have that licence. Blood tests were being carried out in violation of the rules which could lead to inaccurate reports.

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Though it was claimed to be a 500-bed hospital, no patients actually stayed there. Prothom Alo had not found a single patient admitted there on previous visits. Ward in-charge on the hospital’s second floor, Karun Nahar, said that there had been two admitted patients on Sunday and three on Monday. She said some patients were treated at the outpatient department.

There has to be 150 physicians to get permission for a 500-bed hospital. But this hospital had only 40 physicians, most of them ‘borrowed’ from other institutions. There should be 300 nurses, but there were only 15 here.

Sources in the health ministry said that the main reason it was called a 500-bed hospital was that a medical college could admit one student per every five patients. City Medical College Hospital presently had 80 students which would require 400 beds. But special recommendations from a high level committee of the government were required for a hospital to have over 250 beds. This hospital did not pay heed to such regulations.

There are other complications concerning the medical college and hospital. The original owner, physician SM Baduddoza, handed over the establishment, but this has not been approved by the Joint Stock Company. He has handed over the infrastructure, but has not transferred ownership of the company as the full payment has not been made. There is dispute between the two sides over the matter.

The hospital’s managing director Refayet Ullah Sharif went over to the hospital on Monday when he heard of the raid. He failed to show the court any licence. Later, in his presence, a fine of Tk 750,000 was imposed on various grounds. Refayet Ullah Sharif there was time till 23 August to obtain the licence and that they were trying to meet the conditions within that time.

However, an official of the health ministry said that there has to be 150 physicians to get permission for a 500-bed hospital. But this hospital had only 40 physicians, most of them ‘borrowed’ from other institutions. There should be 300 nurses, but there were only 15 here.

At the end of the drive, joint secretary (hospitals) Umme Salma said that the health ministry had formed the taskforce with certain fixed agenda. One such agenda was to determine whether private hospitals were running with licences and whether the standard of medical treatment was being maintained. She said, “Our objective is not to shut down hospitals, but to determine if they are maintaining the required standard and are within the law. The health ministry had set a time and within 23 August if the conditions are not met, action will be taken.”

When asked how the owners of the hospital, a lawmaker, was himself violating the law, Sarwar Alam said, “The law applies to everyone regardless of a person’s position of identity. Just because I am a government servant does not mean the law will be different for me. But we hope that responsible persons will act responsibly. Others will learn from this.”