DGHS asked to explain what it meant by ‘order from ministry higher-ups’ that green lit the agreement
The Health Ministry has pulled up the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) over its statement that said the agreement with Regent Hospital, clearing it to treat Covid-19 patients, was signed upon orders from the “higher-ups in the ministry.”
In a letter issued on Sunday, and signed by Health Services Division Deputy Secretary Sharmin Akhter Jahan, the ministry gave DGHS Director General (DG) Prof Dr Md Abul Kalam Azad three working days to explain their statement.
It asked to explain what DGHS meant by directives from “higher-ups” that green lit the agreement, what was considered before it was signed, and what was done to ensure the conditions set in the agreement were met afterwards.
The back to back statement and letter from DGHS and the ministry, respectively, came amid an uproar over Regent Hospital’s Uttara and Mirpur branches swindling thousands of unsuspecting patients out of millions of taka on the pretext of Covid-19 treatment.
The DGHS in its statement on Saturday had said that the agreement between its Hospitals and Clinics Section and the hospital was signed on March 21 following directives from senior ministry officials.
It claimed that the agreement was signed on condition that the hospital will renew its expired licence as soon as possible. The hospital is yet to do that.
The deadline to renew a private hospital’s licence generally ends at the end of a fiscal year, regardless of when the licence was last renewed.
DGHS also claimed that DG Azad had never met Regent Hospital Chairman Md Shahed before the contract was signed.
The directorate came up with the claims within four days after the ministry asked it to explain how a hospital without a licence managed to sign such an agreement with the authorities.
Who to blame?
Refusing to comment on the matter, DGHS Assistant Director (Coordination) Jahangir Kabir told Dhaka Tribune that Saturday’s statement was released with his signature following official procedure.
He asked to contact DGHS Director (Hospital) Aminul Hasan in order to obtain or see the agreement for further clarification.
Aminul said they knew about Regent Hospital’s expired licence and that’s why they kept a clause in the agreement asking the hospital to renew its licence on time.
About seeing or sharing a copy of the agreement, he said that Dhaka Tribune will have to file an application under the Right to Information Act with DGHS first. “If the DG clears it, then a copy of the agreement will be shared with you.”
DGHS DG Azad could not be reached for comments on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry’s Additional secretary (Hospital) Muhibur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune that he and most of his colleagues, including Secretary Md Abdul Mannan, were in the dark about this whole ordeal as they joined their offices only recently.
Regarding the DGHS claim that ministry higher-ups gave the green light for the agreement, he said they were looking into the matter.
Since DGHS made the claim in a media statement, there must be some sort of document or office order, he said, adding they were yet to find it in their offices until Sunday evening.
“Did any DGHS official show you any such document supporting their claim? You should ask them too to show the document that cleared them for signing the agreement,” Muhibur told Dhaka Tribune.
“Nonetheless, we will surely find out what actually happened,” he added.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque and newly-appointed Secretary Mannan were both unavailable for comments until Sunday evening.
The letter and the raid
In the July 7 letter, the Health Ministry had asked DGHS to investigate and submit its report over collection of samples from home without permission and issuance of fake Covid-19 test reports by Regent Hospital branches.
DGHS was also asked to seal the Regent Hospital branches and shut down their operations immediately. However, the directorate did that a day before the order came.
The directorate in Saturday’s statement said complaints from various sources had pointed it toward the hospital’s misconducts, which then led to the July 6 raid by Rapid Action Battalion and DGHS officials at the hospital’s two branches in the capital.
The DGHS claimed it was “deceived while doing good work.”
Since the raid, law enforcement agencies have been trying to catch Shahed.
RAB has also started a case against 17 people, including Shahed, for allegedly issuing fake Covid-19 test reports and other irregularities.