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Habibulla Masum
A large number of patients, especially the poor and illiterate, who go to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), for outdoor treatment, are not getting proper care due to shortage of on-duty physicians.
Besides, when patients arrive at DMCH, middlemen start alluring them to go to private clinics and hospitals for ‘better treatment’ under the very nose of the authority concerned.
If the patients along with their relatives refuse to respond to the allurement, these organised middlemen start humiliating and harassing them in many ways.
Although the health ministry has taken various steps to ensure proper treatment to the poor patients at government hospitals, no significant improvement has taken place as yet.
“When I went to a doctor and told him about my problems, he didn’t give me much time and began to write the prescription before I finished talking,” said Rubel Islam, who visited the Hospital a couple of days back. He said that the doctor had given him less than two minutes. It feels like they are happy to just get us out of their rooms.
The afflictions at the outdoor department of the DMCH are almost infinite. The sufferings of a patient begin here with the absence of the help desk manpower. After buying tickets, the patients wander about, as they are often clueless about which department or direction to go.
This is principally an enormous problem for the uneducated patients who don’t understand which department or corner of the hospital to go.
On the other hand, a large number of patients along with their relatives come from different parts of the country for treatment at DMCH, but they have to face enormous hassles instead of getting service. It was alleged that most of the patients are led to different diagnostic centres for tests as X-ray, CT scan, ECG and other machines at the hospital have remained out of order for long.
Around 200-300 patients at the hospital are advised to do CT scan every day. But only 80 to 100 patients get facilities at the hospital. Other patients have to do CT scan at private clinics.
It is alleged that a group of brokers exploits the situation by extorting money from poor patients, promising to get them early facilities in return.
During a visit to the hospital, this correspondent found a woman along with her child from Narayanganj waiting for a broker to get early serial for CT scan. Another patient from Pirojpur was lying in a corridor behind the outdoor department waiting for a broker to get him a bed.
The elderly patient said that he had been waiting there for two days since someone promised to get him admitted. The man had even taken away his prescription from the outdoor department.
The hospital authority has taken no further steps other than putting up posters saying ‘Beware of brokers’ on its wall to tackle the situation.
However, the authorities claimed that they have conducted several drives to tackle the brokers and sent some brokers to police custody. To prevent this practice on the hospital premises, the authorities have set up closed-circuit cameras (CC cameras).
On a visit to the hospital, the Bangladesh Post found that the brokers are working for other clinics and diagnostic centres, and have free access to every ward of the hospital. Brokers move in the hospital freely to collect patients and send them to different clinics and diagnostic centres the former work for.
Patients alleged that a corrupt section of hospital employees has been involved in mutual concessions and compromises with the agents to carry out such unprincipled practice, caring little about the interests of the patients.
Besides, some representatives of different pharmaceutical companies are always seen in front of the on-duty doctors rooms illegally, and always harass the patients by checking their prescriptions.
An Ansar member said, on condition of anonymity, that patients who are illiterate, are the main targets of the brokers. They always look for such kinds of patients.
Sources said, more than 150 brokers are working for different clinics and diagnostic centres at the DMCH. Some others are working to provide seats or special service at the hospital for money.
The country’s largest medical centre is functioning with a total of 2600 beds, and 3527-strong workforce including 526 doctors in 48 units under 24 departments, and 1323 nurses.
Experts say, the size of the hospital demands at least double the manpower it possesses at present.
A patient standing in a queue of the outdoor department told Bangladesh Post, ‘I have come to see a doctor for my teeth, but don’t know where the department is. One person was at the ticket counter, but he was gossiping with his colleague. I asked several persons to find the right section. I have now been standing in this queue for 20 minutes.’
Denying the allegation, a physician said a Medical Officer has to attend more than 250 patients every day, between 8:00 am and 2:30 pm. It is not possible to pay attention for more than two minutes a patient, within a fixed period for a large number of patients.
Brig Gen AKM Nasir Uddin, Director of DMCH told Bangladesh Post, “It is not easy to repair or buy new machines. We’ll float tenders soon to repair and buy some new machines for our hospital.”
“We are trying to prevent brokers from entering the hospital. It is not possible for us to check it alone. The relatives of the patients must be aware of it,” he added.
“We caught many miscreants and handed them over to the police. We have a plan to conduct mobile court in DMCH. The number of Ansar members has been raised in the hospital,” said Nasir Uddin.