We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the death of a senior police officer after he was admitted to hospital with mental problems. We have no words of condemning the death of a patient undergoing treatment in a specialized hospital dedicated to the treatment of mental patients. We hope that the accountability of all concerned individuals and organizations, including the trial of the guilty persons, will be ensured in accordance with the law without delay.
Apart from speedy trial of those involved, there are various dimensions to the incident this time. The government will have to decide whether to limit its responsibilities to just taking action against those involved in ASP Anisul Karim's murder and the closure of the illegally run Mind Aid Hospital.
The unpleasant reality is that if the victim is an important person, the trial is speedy. This is rare for the common people. Bangladesh has to change this. There is no real difference between Shahed's Regent, Sabrina and Arif's JKG and Mind Aid hospitals. All this is a reflection of the continued administrative failure and incompetence of the corrupt health directorate.
According to a government survey, in a country of 170 million people, 16 per cent of the adults and 18 per cent of children and adolescents suffer from psychological problems. But the number of degree holders in this subject is not more than 300.
Mental health care has never been considered with due importance here. Separate psychology departments have been opened in various government hospitals across the country but have almost no facilities. Quality service is rare at these places.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina established the National Institute of Mental Health during her first tenure to improve the mental health sector in the last 50 years. Specialists work in this organization. But the doctors and nurses working in the private sector mental health care institutions of the country have not been given the right to supervise the quality of services. The mental healthcare sector is not just a specialized sector, it has extra sensitivity. Not just doctors or nurses, but staff at every level of the sector (from hospital maids to sweepers) need good educational qualification and continued training which the sector lacks.
Jhunu Shamsunnahar, chairman of the psychiatric department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), told us on Tuesday that there was a significant shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists in the country. According to a government survey, in a country of 170 million people, 16 per cent of the adults and 18 per cent of children and adolescents suffer from psychological problems. But the number of degree holders in this subject is not more than 300.
On the other hand, Tajul Islam, a physician who has been teaching at the National Institute of Mental Health for a decade, told Prothom Alo that the actual number of patients is much higher than the results of the survey. The number of women with psychological problem is also worrying. The government must think of the development of overall mental healthcare sector.
There are a considerable number of unauthorized clinics like Mind Aid. Again, it cannot be ruled out that those which are authorized have managed licenses by unfair means. The directorate of health and the ministry should present a clear picture to the people about the activities of this sector. The brutality on Anisul Karim indicates that there was a lack of skilled workforce. We hope the government will adopt a realistic programme of reforms based on the incident of the death of Anisul Karim. This incident should not be seen only in the light of the trial of a senior police officer's death.