Md Sanaullah flew in from Malaysia on a Regent Airways flight on Friday morning. He fell sick minutes after landing at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
His condition deteriorated minutes later. But the airport’s medical centre did not have any doctor and no ambulance could be arranged either.
His nephew Din Mohammad said they tried to take his uncle to a hospital. “But he died moments after we put him in the car,” he said.
Airport sources said, the Regent Airways flight landed at Dhaka airport at 8:08am and the plane’s door was opened around seven minutes later.
Thirty-four-year old Sanaullah fell sick at the immigration counter. His condition worsened at the baggage claiming area.
Members of on-duty armed police promptly contacted the airport’s medical centre, only to learn that there was no doctor.
Nurses from the medical centre later advised taking the patient to hospital but no ambulance could be arranged.
Din said his uncle, who was suffering from tuberculosis, lived in Malaysia for three years.
“He called me around 8:20am from the mobile phone of another passenger and asked where I was,” Din said. “I told him that I was waiting for him outside the terminal. My uncle said, ‘I’ll be right there’.”
He said he started to worry as Sanaullah did not come out after a long time. Din took an airport pass around 8:45am and entered the airport to look for his uncle.
When he could not find Sanaullah, Din approached the on-duty policemen who informed him that a passenger, who came from Malaysia, had fallen sick.
“I saw my uncle foaming from the mouth as he lay motionless on the floor,” Din said. “The bystanders told me that my uncle was dead. After we took him to a car, we found that his body was cold and he was not moving. We came back home and buried him.”
“It’s such a big airport but there is no doctor to provide treatment to the sick people! There is no ambulance. My uncle could have been saved if he had been taken to hospital,” he added.
An armed police official said they contacted the medical centre repeatedly after learning that Sanaullah had fallen sick. “But no doctor was there. A nurse came after quite some time,” the official added.
It has been alleged that the medical centre did not take any initiative to arrange an ambulance despite requests.
Armed police officials said they often face such a situation whenever any passenger fell sick. The patients have to be sent to hospital on either autorickshaws or other vehicles as the medical centre’s ambulance is not available.
Sources say the airport fire service has an ambulance but it is only used in case of accidents.
Dhaka airport’s Director Kazi Iqbal Karim said: “There is a medical centre at the airport supervised by the health directorate. They have an ambulance. They are contacted whenever a passenger falls sick.
“But their ambulance is not coming to any use. They have been informed about this matter many times at coordination meetings.”
He said accountability could have been ensured if the civil aviation had its own medical wing.
“Many agencies work at the airport but they are not under the civil aviation. Passenger services can be guaranteed if we can ensure accountability,” Karim added.
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune