Sylhet Shahid Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital is yet to start serving children even six years after the prime minister had declared it a children's hospital.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 100-bed children's hospital named after Shaheed Dr Shamsuddin Ahmed on 21 January 2015. On that day, the PM announced the start of the hospital.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) officials say the hospital could not start functioning due to a lack of administrative approval and a manpower crisis.
Sources say the work of updating the hospital has not started due to lack of coordination between the Public Works Department and the Health Engineering Department.
Furthermore, after the coronavirus pandemic began in March last year, the hospital was declared a corona-dedicated hospital. Since then, corona patients are being treated there, ultimately delaying the much-awaited upgrading of the hospital, said sources.
After the PM's announcement, Tk100 crore was allocated to upgrade the hospital to 200 beds. This work was scheduled to be completed by 2019. However, the ministry withdrew the allocated money as the work did not start within the stipulated time.
AK Abdul Momen, foreign minister and also a lawmaker from Sylhet-1 constituency, expressed frustration on Tuesday with the hospital's failure to start running even after receiving the monetary allocation.
He said the design for the 200-bed mother and child hospital was ready and the funds were allocated also. But due to the negligence of the authorities concerned, the project was not implemented. He said it is a matter of great sorrow if a project is not implemented even after getting the money, and action should be taken against those responsible for this failure.
On 16 September, 2014, Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone for the expansion and renovation of Shahid Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital in Chauhatta of Sylhet city, to make it a 100-bed specialised children's hospital.
Later, Tk10 crore was allocated for this specialised hospital. Though the Public Works Department did spend Tk3 crore on infrastructure development, the remaining Tk7 crore was returned, leaving the infrastructure work incomplete for years.
According to Dr Himanshu Lal Roy, director of the DGHS Sylhet divisional office, despite the prime minister's inauguration, there was no administrative approval from the ministry for a specialised children's hospital and so manpower was not recruited either. As the specialised hospital was not started the allocated money was returned as well.
He said a hospital is not just about building infrastructure. A hospital needs manpower, equipment and ancillary facilities, and lacking this support, the shishu hospital could not be started.
Regarding the refunding of the allotted money he said, even though the money was disbursed, a problem arose over whether the Public Works Department or the Health Engineering Department would do the job. At the last minute, it was decided that the Public Works Department would do the work, but then they could not submit a design within the stipulated time.
Himanshu Lal Roy said, "I have drawn up another proposal for starting the shishu hospital. Unfortunately it is getting a little delayed because of the ongoing pandemic, but I will send it to the ministry soon.
According to the DGHS, the hospital has 100 beds at present, but the manpower is not even sufficient for a 30-bed hospital.
After it was declared corona-dedicated, doctors and health workers were brought from Osmani Medical College Hospital to work at this hospital.
Sylhet Shahid Shamsuddin Ahmed Hospital Residential Medical Officer (RMO) Dr Supanta Mohapatra said Covid patients are being treated here now and there is a manpower crisis. Even so, they are trying to provide the maximum support possible.
Supanta said he knew nothing about the launching of a specialised children's hospital.