China has decided not to finance the building of a burn and plastic surgery unit in Chattogram Medical College and Hospital because the hospital has not been able to arrange the required land for the purpose.
After a Chinese delegation visited Chattogram Medical College and Hospital several times, an agreement was signed in 2016 with the Chinese government for building a 100-bed burn and surgery unit in the medical college. China planned to investment Tk100 crore for the project.
"I have been trying to establish a burn unit in Chattogram for a long time. In 2016, a Chinese delegate visited the medical college and chose a 20-katha plot. The hospital agreed too," said Dr Samanta Lal Sen, chief national coordinator for plastic surgery and all burn projects in Bangladesh.
In 2019, the hospital said the Japan International Co-operation Agency (Jica) would build a radiology unit on that plot. The then hospital administration had allocated the land for the Jica project in 2014, he added.
The hospital, the Jica project coordinator and the Chinese delegation had several meetings at the health directorate, but they could not come up with a solution. It is quite frustrating that the burn unit will not be built because of a lack of land, he further said.
The deputy director of the hospital Dr Akhtarul Islam acknowledged that the hospital had made a mistake, and said the problem had occurred after the hospital allocated the plot to both China and to Jica.
Another Chinese delegation visited the hospital in 2018. In March that year, China agreed to fund the establishment of the burn unit. The Chinese Embassy wrote to the Economic Relation Division of the finance ministry requesting the final draft of the Letter of Exchange.
The Chinese delegate said its government had approved the construction of the infrastructure of the burn unit. Meanwhile, the design of the building had been finished. Under these circumstances, getting approval to build the burn unit at any other place will take a few years.
The Development Project Proposals (DPP) for the radiology and imaging unit have already been approved by the Executive Committee of National Economic Council. If the previously selected place is changed, new DPPs will have to be approved. The project has already taken five years, said Dr Lal.
Though some places were proposed, neither China nor Jica agreed to them.
There is 20-katha open space beside the administration building. After allocating a part of it to Jica, we proposed providing a 12-katha plot of land to China for building the burn unit. However, China did not agree, said Akhtarul Islam.
Fires occur quite frequently in Chattogram, especially in the old shipbreaking industries, because the city is an industrial zone. The records of the Fire Service and Civil Defence reveal that were 726 fire incidents in Chattogram in 2019.
Chittagong Medical College and Hospital is the only place that treats burn victims. There are 26 beds in the burn unit, but the facilities are inadequate and there is no intensive care unit. On average, 40-50 patients are treated here daily. There is also a shortage of nurses and other staff. That is why burn victims are often sent to Dhaka, said Dr Rafique Ahmed, head of the burn unit at the hospital.