The construction project concerning establishment of the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre has got stuck due to the government's failure to appoint required manpower.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) embarked on the project concerning the building of the institute in 2010. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the project in October of last year.
However, procurement of necessary equipment for the project has not been completed, as yet, even though it has been 10 years since work on the project started.
Besides, the Ministry of Public Administration and the finance division at the Ministry of Finance has not given clearance for recruiting required manpower; in consequence, the progress of the project is on hold. Consequently, the deadline for the completion of the project has been extended several times. Thereby, the Planning Commission asked to scrap the project.
Unauthorised diagnostic and pathology labs have been established in large numbers in Bangladesh like mushrooms in the forest; and many of these labs are not up to the mark, causing the patients to suffer a lot when they go to these labs for medical tests.
Not only that, these large diagnostic centres also come up with wrong diagnosis of the patients on many occasions. According to the DGHS, the government took the initiative to set up the institute to monitor and control these unauthorised centres.
ork on the project started in July 2010. At the onset, the project cost was set at Tk138.13 crore, and it was scheduled to get completed in June 2013.
The project tenure was extended by one year. In the second review, its cost was revised and reset at Tk194.32 crore. Later, the tenure was extended by one year, and the construction of the building was completed by the time. However, the tenure was extended by two more years to complete other works.
As the project did not see any major progress within the extended period, the implementing agency requested the planning commission to extend the timeframe, once again, by one year, up to June 2019.
However, the commission said that there is no justification in keeping the project running for year after year without settling the bottleneck over the recruitment of manpower.
The commission also said, if required, the project should be abandoned, while getting the remaining work done by embarking on a new project.
The planning commission officials said, the prime minister has directed them to identify projects with newly constructed buildings with no activities inside. Recently, the prime minister issued the order at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).
Health Minister Zahid Maleque, on August 3, wrote a letter to the Planning Minister MA Mannan about the project, where he said that the construction of the buildings and the purchase of furniture has been completed.
But the needed equipment has not been purchased, as yet. The institute cannot be put into operation without equipment. Because, the patients will not get service in absence of equipment. As a result, the main aim of the project will not be accomplished.
The officials at the Implementation Monitoring & Evaluation Division (IMED) at the ministry of planning said, the DGHS has proposed appointing more than 700 persons at the institute. But, the Ministry of Public Administration has approved the recruitment of 130 persons only. On the other hand, the finance division brought the number down to 69.
The DGHS says, the institute cannot run with such a small number of manpower; this is why the project has got stuck; the equipment is not being purchased, as those cannot be used at the moment owing to lack of manpower. Besides, the officials who will be appointed for operating the equipment will need training.
When approached, the project director Faridul Islam said, as the construction of the buildings has been completed, there will be no more obstacle when the disagreement in recruiting manpower between the finance division and the Ministry of Public administration is resolved.
Enayet Hossain Mukul, additional director general of the DGHS, said that the government has a plan to build up a nation-wide laboratory network to ensure quality laboratory service.
A pathology service referral centre will be built as part of the project, and pathology services will be provided at the institute. Apart from conducting various research works, graduate and post-graduate level courses will also be offered at the institute.
Enayet Hossain opined that the issue concerning the recruitment of manpower should be settled soon.
Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, president of the Health Rights Movement, told The Business Standard, "Treatment based on wrong diagnostic report results in wrong treatment. In this case, there is no alternative to monitoring.
The activities of the diagnostic centres have to be monitored so that people do not fall victim to wrong treatment based on the wrong diagnostic report.
"So, the proposed National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre should be opened soon," Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub said.