Recent visits made by his correspondent revealed serious cases of irregularities and corruption across all departments of the hospital, leading many to move their patients elsewhere
Despite the ongoing Covid pandemic, specialist doctors are frequently absent for duty at Rangpur Medical College Hospital (RMCH), one of the most important medical centres in the northern region.
As a result, intern doctors are left to provide healthcare services to both regular and Covid patients. Most of the 250 specialists under the 40 wards of the hospital are often a rare sight, say hospital sources.
Meanwhile, most of the medical equipment present at the hospital has been out of order for a long time, including machines in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the MRI machine, the CT scan machine, the ultrasound machine and all the machines in the pathology department. The generator does not work either, even though there is frequent load shedding for hours on end.
Besides, the hospital has become a paradise for irregularities and corruption in everything from patient admission to basic healthcare services.
An effective chain of command no longer exists as there are allegations that the hospital director himself is in the habit of turning a blind eye to all complaints.
Recent visits made by his correspondent revealed serious cases of irregularities and corruption in all the departments of the hospital, leading many to move their patients elsewhere.
On a recent visit to the surgery department, this correspondent found patients admitted at RMCH complaining about the absence of specialist doctors.
Meem from Churipatti area of Dinajpur’s Hakimpur upazila said her husband Rabiul Islam was admitted to the surgery department five days ago but a doctor had yet to come and visit him.
Meanwhile, she said, her gold jewellery among other items worth Tk10,000 had been stolen from the hospital. She was later forced to take her husband to Bogra Medical College Hospital for treatment.
Many other patients and relatives, including Kurigram’s Moksed Ali and Sahidul Islam, made similar complaints.
Intern doctors, wishing to remain unnamed, said that most specialist doctors, from the head of the department to the associate professors and assistant professors, avoided coming to the hospital for fear of contracting Covid-19.
While some doctors made rounds in the morning, they were hardly ever around for more than an hour. Even during emergencies, these doctors were seldom ever found. But they all saw patients in their private chambers till late at night, added the hospital sources.
Dr Moksed Ali, a professor at the hospital’s surgery department, was not found in his chambers on three consecutive visits made by this correspondent. The nurses on duty said he was a rare sight.
Similarly, Dr Sarwar Jahan, professor of medicine, was not found in his hospital chamber either.
The patients and their relatives have made repeated complaints against these two specialist doctors over their not seeing patients in the ward but seeing patients in their own private chambers.
As a result, patients have to rely on intern doctors as there are no specialist doctors at the gynaecology and obstetrics department, orthopaedics surgery department, paediatric surgery department, kidney department, and ophthalmology department.
The condition of the medicine and cardiology department is the worst off. Hundreds of patients are being admitted with Covid symptoms but there is no central oxygen supply. Patients have to buy oxygen cylinders from elsewhere for medical oxygen to be supplied to them.
Salman, son of Mubarak Ali of Palichara village in Rangpur, who was admitted with breathing difficulties, said that the pressure of oxygen was low in the central supply line of the hospital.
While the registrar and intern doctors visited patients once or twice during the day, there were no signs of doctors at night and no specialists to speak of either.
Meanwhile, of the patients who are being admitted with Covid symptoms, most are not being tested for Covid. So, there is no way to identify and isolate Covid patients. As a result, around 15-20 patients with Covid symptoms are dying every day due to lack of treatment.
Horrors at the ER
On a visit to the hospital's emergency department (ER), this correspondent witnessed more irregularities.
Although the ticket price for admission was supposed to be Tk30 only, patients were being charged Tk150-200.
Moreover, patients were also paying extra for stretchers, beds, mattresses, pillows and even space on the floor.
Mumtaz Begum, from Lalmonirhat’s Kaliganj, said she had already spent Tk1,500 while admitting her mother to the ER.
Many others had the same complaint. In this regard, hospital staffers at the emergency department claimed that they did not charge extra money, but were collecting “bakshish” from some.
Equipment out of order
RMCH's MRI machine, CT scan machine, ultrasound machine, x-ray machine have all been out of order for a long time and there has not been any initiative to repair them.
The hospital does not have facilities to do any pathological tests and so all tests must be done from private diagnostic centres.
For this, the doctors and nurses have alleged contracts with various diagnostic centres and they get 30%-40% commission for every patient they send.
Meanwhile, no one wears any uniform or aprons of any kind, giving rise to outsiders and brokers to harass patients and their relatives.
Speaking on the aforementioned issues, Rezaul Islam, the hospital director, indirectly confirmed the allegation about the absentee specialists.
He said: “I've recently made a roster and I'm observing who's following it and who's not."
Asked about allegations that around 850 patients with Covid symptoms died in the last month due to lack of treatment facilities at the hospital, he said, “We cannot identify Covid patients without having tested them first. Besides, every day many patients are dying of natural causes.”
He denied the allegation that he did not receive phone calls from potential complainers and said although sometimes he missed calls, he later made return calls.
Regarding the fact that most of the medical equipment at the hospital was out of order, he said the matter had been reported to the higher authorities.