In order to receive proper services in the public hospitals in Bangladesh, sometimes it requires spending a little extra money and knowing the right person who can help any patient out quicker than usual.
These people, usually addressed in Bangla as “Mama” or “Khalas” of no blood connection, who “help out the patients” are generally the fourth class employees at these hospitals.
For any kind of service, whether for a bed, a stretcher to carry patients, or even to help carrying a newborn child, these illegal brokers usually charge up to Tk500.
Patients from distant places and poorer financial backgrounds can be left broke after paying these charges, leaving them unable to return home.
All that may be about to change at Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital, commonly known as Mitford Hospital, where a group of interns has declared their Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department (OB-GYN) to be “bribe free” for all patients.
The group, led by Dr Pritom Muztahid and Sultana Jahan Lata, organised a protest on August 20 against the employees who charge patients for quicker, but still basic, services.
The doctors and interns have urged the patients and their families to not pay any extra cash to either the hospital authorities or anyone without a receipt. In case anyone tries to charge money without a receipt, they have advised all to file a complaint by calling a dedicated phone number: 01716420673.
They say their move aims to prove that doctors sympathise with their patients and do not care only about their professional responsibilities.
“We are trying to serve the patients, but these brokers and opportunist employees are taking advantage of the patients by using the doctors’ names,” Pritom Muztahid told the Dhaka Tribune.
“These people should not be allowed in our hospitals. Their dreadful practice needs to come to an end.”
OB-GYN Department head Dr Farhat Hossain and Assistant Director Shafia Akhter have supported the initiative from the beginning. Since then, the interns have spread the news of their bribe-free department through social media.
Sultana Jahan Lata said: “Corruption that destroys the trust between the hospital and patients can’t be allowed. State-run medical college hospitals should be a place where patients find reliance.”
OB-GYN Department Assistant Director Dr Shafia Akhter told the Dhaka Tribune that the complaints they were receiving centred on the security guards, clerks and lower management people who had been taking money illegally to provide services to the patients in need.
“Even after being on the hospital’s payroll, they seek to earn extra cash on the side from helpless patients. But these complaints will decrease once this initiative of the interns gains momentum,” she said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to stop this completely. But the families of the patients must remain alert too. In the meantime, we will try and spread our idea in other departments of the hospital.”