For the past 18 months, Munni Begum has been making regular visits to the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) with her son.
Seven-year-old Siam has cancer, but Munni says they both feel distressed on every visit to the government-run facility in Mohakhali.
“Every single section of this hospital is designed to make people suffer,” she told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Middle-class families like us have to depend on government hospitals for treatment but for most of the tests, we have to go to other hospitals. This hospital does not have resources to diagnose diseases.”
Most of the equipment for diagnosis at the country’s only specialised cancer hospital is out of order.
During a visit to the hospital on July 30, the CT Scan and MRI room was found locked. A motorcycle was seen parked in front of it and wooden boxes and other storage material were piled up to block all access.
Patients must go to other diagnostic centres of private hospitals for small tests.
“The hospital does not have the facilities to run CT scan and MRI tests, forcing us to get the tests done at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Popular Diagnostic Centre,” Munni Begum said.
“It is costly. Moreover, there’s the hassle of moving from one hospital to another with my little son.”
Most tests, including CBC-CEC, are not done at NICRH. The blood bank is closed after 2pm, while poor management and a lack of equipment force patients to wait for months for chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
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The MRI and CT Scan machines have been out of service for years[/caption]
Several doctors, declining to be named, blamed the administration’s irresponsibility and the negligence of doctors for the patients’ sufferings.
“The administration of almost all the hospitals are negligent and corrupt to some extent but none is as severe as this [cancer] hospital. There’s nothing right here,” said one cancer hospital doctor.
Hospital staff members said around 500 patients go there daily for chemotherapy and radiotherapy but only 150-200 of them receive treatment. Children need at least seven days to get a slot while adults need at least 15 days.
Keramat Ali, 67, came from Noakhali for chemotherapy last April. “I have not received my chemo yet,” he said. “Those who do not know someone on the inside and are unwilling to pay bribes, never get a serial number.”
This forces some of the patients to go to private hospitals, while others go back home. Some pass the days at the hospital’s corridor.
Sources at the hospital said CT scan, MRI, CBC-CEC tests are necessary for cancer treatment but the hospital’s only MRI machine had been out of order for more than three years.
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These were seen kept in front of the MRI and CT Scan unit[/caption]
One of the five radiotherapy machines is inoperable while another one is partially defective. The CBC machine does not work all the time. A new MRI machine, brought several months ago, is yet to be set up.
Doctors say 90% of the patients are poor. Patients with leukemia and other hematological diseases need regular blood transfusion but the hospital’s blood bank is shut after 2pm, even though blood banks at all government medical college hospitals are kept open 24 hours. Patients who need blood have to wait for a long period.
Cancer hospital Director Prof Dr Moarraf Hossain said they were setting up the new CT scan machine. “It will take time. Money has been allocated for purchasing another CT scan machine but we do not know when the tender will be floated,” he said.
When asked about the long period of time needed for getting slots to receive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, he said: “We provide therapies to 275 patients every day. Before asking such a question, go and see if such a thing happens anywhere else in the world.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune