No driver or maintenance employees have been in its employ for 8 months
Thousands of people in Chandpur and its char areas are struggling to reach the hospital, despite having been given a river ambulance by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last year.
People living in the char areas regularly cross the river by trawler and boat—to reach the mainland—for their necessities. In medical emergencies, it is difficult for patients and their families to reach the hospital in time because of transportation hazards, and this often costs them their lives.
In an effort to provide emergency medical transportation to patients in the char areas, Dr Dipu Moni took the initiative to acquire a water ambulance; it was provided by the Community Based Health Care Department (CBHC) on October 22, 2018. It was gifted to Sadar Upazila Health Complex. However, no driver or maintenance employees have been employed to work on it in almost eight months. The river ambulance is deserted on the Mukherjeeghat of Dakatia riverbed and is on the verge of being dismantled.
According to Chandpur Sadar Upazila Health Office and Civil Surgeon Office, Chandpur Government General Hospital (CGGH) is the only well-equipped hospital in Sadar upazila. People from Hayim, Matlab, and other char areas have no way of reaching the hospital without crossing the Meghna river. Upon receiving letters from Chandpur's Civil Surgeon to the higher authorities, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare permitted the 250-bed CGGH to use the ambulance. However, it has not been possible as there is no authorized personnel to maintain it.
Upazila Health and Family Welfare Centre Officer Dr Sajeda Begum said: "The Upazila Health Department is planning to transfer the ambulance to somewhere else as it not being utilized here. We suggested the ambulance be placed at the Bangladesh Navy or Fire Service dock for better maintenance but the authority did not do anything. Now it is abandoned in Dakatia river, unattended."
"The Sadar Upazila Health Complex does not need the river ambulance right now because it does not have enough infrastructure or need. But, the CGGH and Hayimchar Upazila Health Complex can utilize it more as they have more patients coming from distant areas. So we asked the authorities to replace it where it can help the patients more."
CGGH Caretaker Dr Anowarul Azim said: "We have not received any letter regarding using the ambulance for CGGH. Even if we get the permission we cannot use it as there is no driver or fuel allocated for the ambulance by the authority."