Reports on highly sensitive and critical medical equipment, either unpacked or left to get disordered or discarded, were coming from medical college hospitals and health complexes of the country in isolation for long. A leading Bangla contemporary has now come up with a comprehensive report on 28 such diagnostic machines and equipment highly essential for treating critical patients. What is galling is the inability to install and use ventilators at a time when Covid-19 patients died for want of such facilities. The ventilators were lying unpacked because either no one was available to install those or the medical facilities had no space to accommodate those. Similarly, X-ray, ultrasonogram, echocardiogram (ECG) machines lay in a packed state right at the moment when Covid-19 patients were in dire need of early detection of the extent of severity of damage to their lungs.
If it had been a lack of coordination during the extreme crisis of medical facilities in hospitals, it was deplorable. But if this was a deliberate attempt to take undue advantage of the crisis, it is even more reprehensible. Experts expressed their view that such developments can happen because of collusion between a section of the officers of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and businesspeople who supply such machines and equipment. Earlier, the disclosure of massive irregularities resorted to by a contractor at Rangpur Medical College Hospital and procurers at Faridpur Medical College Hospital respectively made scandalous news. The follow-up to those corruption cases is not known. What is, however, known is that the Tk 30,000 the government allocated for every upazila health complex for management of Covid-19 emergency was returned because the funds could not be spent for a lack of capability. Development of medical infrastructure and treatment facilities of this disease cannot be left to the novice. It is like putting the cart before the horse. In fact, technical teams should have been readied both for assessment of the need at the health-complex level and installing the equipment on an emergency basis at the time of the peak of the pandemic. Employment of operators was also a necessity.
Old habits die hard. Those people involved in corruption at the DGHS and at different hospitals did not mend their ways during that critical period. This is what explains the mess-up of delivery of machines and equipment to different hospitals without the logistics of setting those up for use and help of the patients. When saving life is the mission, such fracases – deliberate or otherwise – cannot be tolerated. The health sector has long suffered because of corruption and wilful neglect.
So now it would not be too much to expect that the nexus involved in irregularities and criminal neglect be brought to book and made to pay the penalty for their crimes. At the same time the DGHS should look forward to inducting fresh blood with the responsibility of comprehensively assessing the needs of all the government health facilities, particularly in outlying areas. On the basis of this, capacity of hospitals and health complexes should be enhanced in a pragmatic manner. Thus disuse of expensive medical machines and equipment can be averted.