Upon entering Railway Hospital in Chattogram, one may have the eerie feeling of stepping into a haunted place, with most of the doors and windows shut and hardly any sign of activities one might expect to see in a medicare facility.
During recent visits to the hospital, neither any patient nor any doctor was found. Then there is a shortage of necessary equipment, including tools for surgery and diagnostics. At present there is only one ambulance, that too is out of order for a long time.
While the two other government hospitals in the port city – Chattogram Medical College Hospital and Chattogram General Hospital – are swarming with patients, the major hospital for the eastern railway region in the port city's CRB area is literally deserted.
Hospital authorities say the number of patients are decreasing day by day as they lack the capacity to provide adequate healthcare. On an average, only five patients go there seeking medical treatment.
The number of patients has been decreasing over the course of the last ten years, according to multiple sources.
"There is no specialist doctor at the hospital besides the equipment shortage," said its chief medical officer.
Higher authorities have been repeatedly informed with no avail, he claimed.
Broken healthcare system
Once the reputation of the Railway Hospital spread beyond the port city to different parts of the country. Other than the railway staff and employees, outsiders could avail medical treatment here at a low cost. Over the years the hospital has lost its prominence as the number of patients kept dropping
Sources say, some 11,000 employees of the railways and 10,000 to 15,000 retired officers in the eastern part of the country are dependent on the 95-bed hospital for their medical treatment.
Currently there are only 4 doctors against 17 posts. Dr Ibn Safi Abdul Ahad, one of the four doctors, is serving as the chief medical officer. Dr Fatema Akhtar (AS External Affairs Department) has been on education leave for almost a year.
Dr Shibu Nath (AS External Departments-2) recently returned to the hospital after he was on leave for a long time. Dr Jamal Hossain is regularly called in from the Laksam Railway Hospital.
Jahangir Hossain, general manager of the Eastern Railway Chattogram, said the matter has been reported to the ministry.
"If the shortage of physicians is addressed patients will regain their confidence in the hospital," he said.
Apart from this hospital, three other healthcare facilities in the eastern railway region – 10-bed port yard hospital in Halishahar, 75-bed railway hospital in Dhaka and a specialised 50-bed chest disease hospital in Chattogram – are also struggling. The port yard hospital has already closed down while the number of patients at the other two are also very low.
AM Hamidur Rahman, medical technologist at the hospital, said, "Every day for the last one and a half years I have been spending lazy time in the lab from morning to afternoon. No one comes here."
Sajjad Hossain, organising secretary of the central committee of the Bangladesh Railway Workers League, said that no one usually goes to the hospital other than for treatment of minor ailments like fever and headache.
According to Mahfuzur Rahman, coordinator of the Chattogram Public Health Protection Committee, the railway hospital can regain its reputation if authorities take the initiative to revive it.