Opposition lawmakers slam health minister for ‘failure’ to tackle Covid-19
Some lawmakers of opposition parties in parliament have come down heavily on Health Minister Zahid Maleque, claiming that his ministry has failed to tackle the coronavirus situation.
The parliament was heated up on Tuesday while the opposition lawmakers in the house discussed their cut-motions regarding Tk22,883.86-crore demand in grant for the Health Services Division.
The members of parliament of the opposition parties blamed the health minister for the dire state of the country's heath sector and some even demanded his removal from the office, reports the Prothom Alo.
Jatiya Party Mujibul Haque (Kishoreganj-3) said had the health ministry taken any effective action to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the situation would not have turned so critical in the country.
The personal protective equipment (PPE) given to the doctors and nurses are of low quality, he added.
Criticising the services provided by public hospitals, he asked the prime minister to issue a directive so that no minister, MP and government official can receive treatment from hospitals other than the government ones, reports UNB.
Mujibul Haque demanded that the private hospitals be brought under accountability too.
BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid (Chapainawabganj-3) claimed that the Covid-19 infection rate in Bangladesh is the highest in the world, but the country is carrying out a small number of tests every day.
He said, "It is a big weakness in our health sector that we have various infrastructures in government hospitals at division, district and upazila levels, but the number of technologists is so limited that people who go to the hospitals for treatment after 12:00 pm, do not get tested."
"Therefore, the number of technologists will have to be increased so that poor people can avail 24-hour testing facilities," Harun said.
The BNP lawmaker said there is no way to deny the fact that Bangladesh's entire medical system has become dependent on India. "In the last 10 years, over one crore people went to India for treatment," he said.
Jatiya Party Lawmaker Pir Fazlur Rahman (Sunamganj-4) urged the prime minister to replace incumbent Health Minister Zahid Maleque with Begum Matia Chowdhury.
"The people of my constituency asked me to place it [their desire] before the prime minister," he said.
Another Jatiya Party lawmaker Shameem Haider Patwary (Gaibandha-1), demanded that a basic health database for all citizens in the country be prepared and enough medical technologists be recruited.
Jatiya Party lawmaker Kazi Firoz Rashid (Dhaka-6) said there is no coordination between the ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Rowshan Ara Mannan (Women Seat-47) said the health sector should be given the highest priory to deal with the situation.
In response, the health minister highlighted the various steps taken by his ministry and claimed that he was in the field, reports the Prothom Alo.
Responding to the allegations of irregularities in hotels and food costs of doctors and health workers at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, the minister said the allegations were not correct as some 3,700 people stayed there in 50 hotels for a month, and Tk500 per person was given as food cost for three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. "The rent for each room was Tk1,100 per day."
Noting that the costs were not so high, he said, "The food cost that was said [in allegation] is not correct."
Zahid Maleque said there is now no allegation about the standard of the PPE. The government has already sent 30 lakh sets of PPE to different hospitals, reports UNB.
He said now every private hospital is providing medical treatment though their service charges are high to some extent. "The government will fix service charges."
The minister said there was an outcry for ventilators initially, but now it seems there is no need for that. "We have some 400 ventilators. But, 50 of those are not used. Most of the patients put under ventilator support died."
He said the Covid-19 death rate among the infected people is low due to the measures taken by the government.
The government has recruited some 2,000 doctors and 6,000 nurses within a quick time to deliver medical services to corona patients, increased the number of hotlines to 50 from five, introduced telemedicine services, prepared patient guidelines, a modern protocol for doctors and other health workers, he said, reports UNB.
The minister said 14,000 beds have been designated for Covid-19 patients in the country's hospitals and 40 percent of those are still vacant, reports UNB.
"It is not like that patients are not getting treatment in any hospital of Bangladesh. As of today, we have 60 percent beds occupied while 40 percent are still vacant. We have some 14,000 beds for Covid-19 patients," he said.
The health minister also said that high-flow oxygen lines are essential for Covid-19 patients. So, the government has taken the initiative for arranging 1,000 high-flow oxygen systems and 10,000 new oxygen cylinders.