Faulty hospital equipment: How long health sector to run beyond accountability

Prothom Alo illustration

When the healthcare cost is the highest in Bangladesh compared to its neighboring countries, diagnostic machines remaining out of order in government hospitals are unfortunate and unacceptable.

Though various irregularities of the health sector including corruption, mismanagement and unnecessary infrastructural construction have been making headlines for days, top officials of this sector don’t seem to get bothered by that.

This naturally raises questions, are all the top brass of the heath sector beyond accountability? In case of purchasing or maintaining vehicles and machineries of the hospital, no example of breaking away from that vicious cycle was set either.

Prothom Alo reports that a total of 3,331 equipment in 84 hospitals of the country including government medical college hospitals, specialised hospitals and district level hospitals are left out of order. Market price for these equipment stands around Tk 8 billion (800 crore).

If all the government hospitals of the country are counted in, this amount will certainly soar a lot higher. Once these machines are repaired, they can be reused again.

There are out of order ambulances, X-ray machines, ECG machines, Ultrasonography machine, nebulizer machines, angiography machine and even MRI machines among the repairable equipment.

These machines and vehicles are must when it comes to diagnosis, providing treatment and transporting patients. Then on what ground these have been left idle for days?

For not being repaired, these vehicles and equipment themselves are getting damaged on the one hand while on the other hand patients going to the government hospitals are forced to get treatment at private hospitals paying a lot more money.

We get to see that as much the central medical stores depot, directorate general of health services and the health ministry are interested in buying medical equipment they are as disinterested in making them reusable through repair.

Despite there being neither requirement nor trained manpower in the hospitals, the health ministry bought and sent the equipment there. A cancer-treating ‘linear accelerator’ machine had been sent to Khulna Medical College Hospital back in 2012.

The hospital didn’t need that equipment and the machine worth more than Tk 100 million (10 crore) have been completely damaged just from laying idle in the box.

Why the people responsible for this wastage won’t be held accountable? The opposite of this are being noticed as well. In a hospital as busy as capital’s Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, 22 equipment including MRI machines have been left out of order for a long time.

Despite sending several letters to the hospital authorities in this regard, it didn’t produce any outcome. Physicians of the hospital are regularly sending their patients to other hospitals for diagnosis.

Majority of the people visiting public hospitals for treatment are poor.

Since the machines at the government hospitals are out of order, patients are forced to get these tests done at private hospitals and diagnostic centres. As a result they have to bear the burden of extra charge.

In Bangladesh, the amount of healthcare cost borne by the patients is rising already. Public health expert Be-Nazir Ahmed was right in saying that one of the key reasons for healthcare cost being high for the people of Bangladesh is that the diagnosis cost is high here.

This would not have happened, if there had been necessary diagnostic arrangements in the government hospitals.

Now the question is why the public has to bear the extra burden of treatment caused by the negligence and carelessness of the health ministry and the directorate general of health services?

Many take the opportunity as there are no specific central guidelines regarding the purchase, maintenance and reparation of equipment for government hospitals. Specific guidelines have to be formed for this.

The out-of-order machines have to be repaired and made reusable fast. And, concerned officials have to be brought under accountability by establishing good governance in the health sector.

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