Nowhere is there in Bangladesh such a concentration of public hospitals, all being specialised except one, as it is in Sher-e-Bangla Nagar. Starting with the Shaheed Suhrwardy Hospital, the only general one, there are the National Heart Institute (NHI), the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Dhaka, Shishu Haspatal (hospital for children) and also the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR), popularly known as Pongu Haspatal. Large and spacious both within and all around, all the hospital buildings draw immediate attention for their near identical architecture with red bricks announcing their dominance.
Opposite to the Shishu Hospital, a 250-bed tuberculosis hospital has also been in operation. Although the Mohakhali is home to the largest of tuberculosis hospitals in the country, the one at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar cannot be considered small either. In recent years, an eye hospital has been set up there on the eastern side of the tuberculosis hospital and opposite to the NITOR. The latest to join the bunch is the National Institute of Neuroscience and Hospital (NINH) with its location at a little distance, but not more than a quarter of a kilometre away from the enviable cluster of hospitals.
Such a high concentration of healthcare facilities literally within an earshot of each other certainly makes the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar a city of hospitals. All these, except the Shishu hospital, are run by the government. A trustee board is responsible for managing this children's hospital. Their imposing buildings with some accommodation facilities for doctors and nurses in case of the NITOR should have earned for them high reputation. But that is not always the case. The Neuroscience hospital under the guidance of one of the country's most prominent neurosurgeons is doing fine. It is kept so neat and clean that leads one to imagine if it is real or an illusion. This is, however, in the Bangladesh context. The eye hospital is also modern enough and modestly clean.
One wishes, the same could be said about the Shaheed Suhrwardy Hospital, the National Heart Institute, and the NITOR. The Shishu Hospital is managed comparatively better but still it leaves much to be desired for different reasons. The one general hospital and the other two specialised hospitals are so unkempt that they nearly produce a sense of nausea in both patients and visitors. A foul smell vitiates the environment.
Although the walls do not require distempering because of the use of particular bricks but they too need some treatment. It appears, no such treatment was given to these buildings in ages. In general cabins, air conditioners still announce their presence but those are out of order. The fans appear to be playing pranks because they move so slowly giving no respite from heat. Their regulators are non-functional. The rooms as such are large enough. But bathroom basins, taps etc., are hardly in order. Water seeps through joints of pipes.
What presents a particularly disturbing sight are the spilling rejects from meals thrown directly into the open yard between blocs of buildings. It is unimaginable how this can happen within the vicinity of a hospital. A number of cats have become permanent residents of these hospitals. They roam freely and given the smallest opportunity pounce on food only to vanish before the patients or their attendants know what has been surreptitiously taken away. However, cats are not the only menaces there; mosquitoes, cockroaches are aggressive enough to keep attendants of patients on their toes.
When patients are taken care of so shabbily and in conditions not ideal for any standard healthcare facility, the chances of patients catching infections during post-care phase are very high. The highly qualified and experienced physicians in this country can compete with their counterparts almost anywhere in the world but when they work in such deplorable conditions, their success rates also fall drastically.
Post-operation nursing is most important but it is neglected here. Such care in a reputed hospital in the West or in some of the more advanced countries makes all the difference. It is exactly for this reason, the nurse-patient ratio is even more important than the doctor-patient ratio.
The group of hospitals in the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar has failed to live up to expectation. They have not done justice to their stated objectives of providing specialised treatment to patients. Simply put, they could not even be an alternative to the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital or the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Hospital. In fact, other hospitals should have referred to those hospitals for special care. Sometimes they do but the expertise available there could not be fully utilised because of the ill management of those. How specialised hands the National Health Institute boasted is best illustrated by the fact that one of its former doctors is now called in to operate upon patients in the United States of America twice a month. He is now serving at a leading private hospital in the country.
So the doctors here can deliver but for them to do so, the management must get its acts together. Unless the authorities allocate enough funds for maintenance of hospitals and those are used properly, healthcare cannot improve much. Patients who can afford will continue to seek medical care abroad all the same.