It will take a few more months to complete ongoing licence renewals and new registration applications
A lack of an updated list from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has been causing a delay for a Health Ministry taskforce in conducting drives against unlicensed healthcare facilities.
However, DGHS sources blamed the existing lengthy licensing process, impending applications of previous years, and lethargic approach from the previous head of its hospital wing, as the main cause for the delay in finalizing an updated list of hospitals and their status across the country.
According to DGHS’s Hospitals and Clinics wing, the licensing process for a healthcare facility, which includes scrutinizing all documents and other activities, generally take between 40 days to 90 days.
This indicates that it will take a few more months to complete ongoing licence renewals and new registration applications.
“That’s why we are saying that licensing is a round the year process. Many people are renewing licences which had not been updated for years,” said one of the officials from the wing, requesting anonymity, as he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“If we receive updated information from the divisional directors, it would be clear how many healthcare facilities we have, how many of them have licences and what is their current status. It will make our work a lot easier in bringing all such facilities under a monitoring system and ensure better services for all,” another official said.
On August 8, DGHS Director (hospitals) Farid Uddin Mia, who is also the secretary general of a DGHS committee for Covid-19 prevention and ensuring treatment of infected patients at government and private hospitals, announced that divisional units of the section have been directed to provide an updated list of healthcare facilities of their areas by August 23.
He made the announcement after holding a meeting with members from the Health Ministry taskforce, which was formed on July 23.
When contacted, Additional Secretary (Public Health Wing) Mostafa Kamal, who is the convener of the ministerial taskforce, said their all-out drive against illegal hospitals has been on hold as DGHS has been assigned to update the list first.
“Once they complete their duty, then the task force will start the drives,” he added.
However, Farid Uddin claimed that the updating of the final list was being delayed as they are yet to receive inputs from the divisional unit. He also acknowledged that compiling the final list was a hectic task as the list had not been updated properly for a long time.
He, however, said: “We have scaled up our activities and are trying to solve the licence issue as soon as possible.”
When Farid Uddin took charge of the section on July 23, little more than 4,200 healthcare facilities were found to be licensed. By September 8, the total number of licensed healthcare facilities stood around 6,300.
Meanwhile, Additional Secretary Muhibur Rahman (hospital wing) said drives against healthcare facilities have been going on.
“Drives against other irregularities in healthcare facilities are going on. But, if any one of them are found without a licence, then they will be brought to book,” he added.
However, DGHS said that if any person or owner of a healthcare facility had applied for renewal and continues to be active to fulfil all requirements, they would not be charged during the drive.
According to the DGHS Bulletin 2018, some 12,757 new applications were received, and some 5,000 more new applications were expected to be filed.
Among the new applications, some 1,800 were at the application stage, and 2,977 at the pending stage. Besides, some 1,842 hospitals await inspection by the authorities, while inspections at some 1,083 health care facilities have already been done.
Process of licensing
To make the licensing process easier, DGHS have initiated an online approach from 2018 and it will facilitate aspirants to receive the licence without visiting authorities’ offices.
However, DGHS officials said healthcare facilities, especially from outside Dhaka, showed little interest in the online registration, but the number of applications being received has gone up following the recent order from the government.
To apply, healthcare facility owners need to submit a set of documents, including the hospital owner’s national ID, updated trade licence, TIN (for new establishments) or Income Tax Certificate (for old establishments),VAT registration number, environment clearance, narcotics clearance, waste management (hazardous and non-hazardous) contract and scanned ‘memo’ copy.
The applicant has to pay licence fees into three categories, where private medical college hospitals pay Tk250,000, and private hospitals pay from Tk50,000 to Tk200,000 depending on bed numbers (250 beds max) in the city corporation areas.
An applicant has to pay Tk40,000 to Tk150,000 for district-level and Tk25,000 to Tk100,000 for upazila level hospitals.
For diagnostic and other health care facilities, applicants need to pay Tk15,000 to Tk50,000 depending on the categories of the facilities and its place where it would be operated.
The hospital section has made the database accessible recently so that the applicant can check their status. and if needed, could submit required documents that they failed to submit previously.
If authorities find any mistake in any application, such as failure to submit a document properly, the application is put on the ‘pending’ list.
After completing all procedures, the applicant receives a “waiting for inspection” status.
After scrutinizing the documents for a second time, a DGHS team visits the healthcare facility for inspection.
If the inspection team finds everything in order, they mark the hospital as “inspection done”.
After that, the necessary papers for awarding the licence is signed by the director (hospital), additional director general (admin) and director general of the DGHS.
Once signed, the hospital unit will check the paper again and award the licence if no issues are found.