Munsur Ali, a freedom fighter from Assasuni upazila of Satkhira, came to the Satkhira Medical College and Hospital with eye problems. After collecting a ticket from the counter, he went to visit a doctor, but was frustrated by what he found.
"I visited Dr Alamgir Kabir, one of the hospital's eye specialists, for my problems. However, he gave me his visiting card and asked me to consult him at a private hospital in the city of China Bangla! The government established this medical college and hospital costing hundreds of crores of taka, but it has not been delivering us any good," said Munsur Ali with his ailing eyes full of despair.
Dr Alamgir Kabir said, "The hospital has no facilities to conduct necessary tests – that is why patients are advised to visit private hospitals. There is some modern medical equipment here but there are no technicians to use it."
Satkhira Medical College and Hospital was inaugurated in 2015, at a cost of Tk304 crore, to provide quality healthcare for 22 lakh of the district's people. However, a lack of doctors and technicians has derailed the 250-bed hospital from its aim.
Golam Rabbani, of Tala upazila, went to the hospital, experiencing chest pain and nausea. One of the doctors prescribed him some medical tests.
"However, the hospital's pathology department said they could not perform all the tests, so I have to avail them elsewhere," said Golam Rabbani.
The hospital authorities said, "We are functioning with an insufficient workforce and are trying our best to provide quality healthcare. We have formally informed the higher authorities about the crisis, but the situation has not yet changed."
According to hospital sources, just 17 doctors fill the hospital's 58 available posts. Of the 86 posts for nursing officials, seven remain vacant; while of 80 senior staff nurse posts, two are vacant. The posts of caretaker and deputy caretaker are also vacant. Out of four nursing supervisor posts, only one is currently active.
The source said there are 41 posts for employees in the hospital, but 24 of them are vacant.
Swadesh Kumar Roy, the chief assistant of the hospital, said, "We are suffering and have a lot of problems because of the lack of manpower. Most of us have to perform extra duties because of the crisis."
Dr Kazi Arif, assistant professor (medicine) of Satkhira Medical College and Hospital, said, "We do not have the necessary number of doctors here. There is also a lack of necessary chemical reagents and operators to use the equipment."
Dr Rafiqul Islam, the caretaker of the hospital, said, "We could not open the emergency ward because of insufficient manpower, but we are trying our best. We perform minor operations here. Currently, 100-150 patients are admitted to the hospital regularly. The number will surpass 250 if the emergency ward is opened.
He said they have informed the authorities about the crisis and they assured them that the problem will soon be solved.
The caretaker said most of the medical equipment is inoperable because of a lack of skilled technicians.
"Most of the modern equipment costing crores of taka – including the ETT (Exercise Tolerance Testing) machine, echocardiogram (echo) machine, mammogram machine, plus colonoscopy and endoscopy machines – remain unused at the hospital," he added.