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Dhaka Tribune

13 months after inauguration, Rangpur Children's Hospital still non-operational

  • Construction started in November 2017, with budget of Tk31.5 crore
  • Specialized hospital inaugurated in February 2023
  • Full launch requires manpower and administrative setup
Update : 02 Apr 2024, 03:30 PM

Over 13 months after its grand opening, Rangpur 100-bed Children's Hospital remains non-operational. The health directorate's delay in launching the hospital – boasting modern infrastructure and advanced treatment facilities – has sparked frustration among locals, with officials clueless about a definitive timeline for its commencement.

During a recent visit to the establishment, this correspondent encountered an eerie atmosphere within the hospital building. A resident doctor, four nurses and security guards were spending idle time without work, while the children's rides on the premises remained neglected and covered in dust.

The ailing children of the district are receiving treatment at Rangpur Medical College Hospital, placing significant strain on the doctors and nurses there and causing distress for their families.

Construction and facilities

According to the sources at the divisional offices of the Directorate General of Health Services, the construction of the children’s hospital, spanning 1.78 acres, reached completion in 2019. The project, overseen by the Health Engineering Department, received funding from the Ministry of Health. Subsequently, the contractor formally handed over the building to the district civil surgeon on March 8, 2020.

The two-storey hospital is equipped with essential facilities including an emergency unit, outpatient department, doctors' chambers, laboratories, operating theatres, a burn unit, as well as wards and cabins.

Additionally, the hospital premises accommodate quarters for the superintendent, doctors, staff, nurses and drivers, alongside a separate building designated for an electricity substation.

On April 19, 2020, the health directorate designated it as an extension of RMCH, utilizing it as a dedicated isolation facility during the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the pandemic ending, the hospital's operation has yet to start.

Local residents had persistently urged for the immediate opening of the specialized hospital. Responding to their requests, then-health minister Zahid Maleque officially inaugurated it on February 16, 2023. 

At the time, the minister in a discussion with health directorate officials in the hospital auditorium said the facility boasted a 15-bed intensive care unit, a CCU and approximately 70-80 beds equipped with a central oxygen supply.

He also pledged swift recruitment of staff and procurement of necessary equipment for the hospital. However, these promises have yet to be fulfilled.

Shahabul Alam, executive engineer at the Health Engineering Department, said the construction commenced on November 21, 2017, with a budget of Tk31.5 crore.

"The project originally had a two-year deadline, but the contractor completed the work ahead of schedule," he said.

“The ground floor of the hospital houses emergency and outpatient departments, doctors' chambers, and pathology labs. Meanwhile, on the first floor, there are operating theatres and a burn unit, while the second floor accommodates a children's ward and cabins. Doctors, nurses and staff have separate buildings.

“Although the contractor handed over the hospital to the civil surgeon on March 8, 2020, it still lacks the necessary workforce and equipment required for children’s healthcare."

Bureaucratic barriers

Civil Surgeon Dr Md Jahangir Kabir said administrative approval was required to launch the hospital. 

“The health directorate has sent a demand letter to the ministry. Subject to the approval of the ministries of health and finance, the hospital will open once the necessary equipment and manpower are secured.”

RMCH Director Md Yunus Ali said he received a letter on January 15 from the health directorate to open the children’s hospital’s outpatient department. 

“But to fully launch the hospital requires a lot of manpower. A formal request has been forwarded to the Ministry of Health outlining this requirement. Essential to its operation is the appointment of a superintendent to oversee its management, under a distinct administrative framework [separate from RMCH]. None of this has happened yet,” he continued.

The hospital's full opening was contingent upon approval from the finance ministry, recruitment of staff and the installation of medical equipment, the RMCH director added.

For the time being, the outpatient department was technically operational, but patient footfall remained low due to the inconvenience of travel for treatment, he said.

Dr ABM Abu Hanif, director of the DGHS’s Rangpur divisional office, said a demand letter had been sent to the ministry and work was underway, “but I cannot say for sure when the hospital will be launched."

Meanwhile, Rangpur City Corporation Mayor Md Mostafizer Rahman Mostofa noted the escalating frustration among the populace due to the prolonged non-operational status of the hospital after its inauguration, urging the local lawmaker and the health ministry to immediately look into the matter. 

“It is regrettable that despite the inauguration by the former health minister, the hospital remains inactive. I demand the hospital be opened soon.”

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