A health ministry taskforce fined City Medical College Hospital in Gazipur Tk7.5 lakh as a drive on the medical facility on Monday found numerous irregularities and mismanagement.
The 500-bed hospital owned by former home minister and current lawmaker Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir was founded six years ago. However, it had been running without any license and was not even equipped with minimum treatment facilities, said the taskforce comprising of health ministry officials and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) after the raid.
RAB Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam led the drive while health ministry Joint Secretary Umme Salma Tanzia, RAB-1 Porabari Camp Commander Abdullah Al Mamun and other health ministry and RAB high-officials were also present.
The taskforce inspected the operation theater, pharmacy and pathology lab of the hospital and checked the hospital documents. Officials who conducted the raid said the hospital lab did not have a license. Besides, numerous irregularities including date-expired surgical items were found in the operation theater.
Moreover, the lab tests were not following necessary requirements. "The irregularities found here are unexpected," said RAB Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam.
A drive led by the magistrate revealed the Regent Hospital Covid-19 test scam which sparked widespread criticism. Subsequently, the hospital branches were sealed off. In another drive at Dhaka's Shahabuddin Medical College Hospital, Sarwoer Alam also revealed medical irregularities and mismanagement.
About the drive at the Gazipur hospital, Sarwoer said, "The surgical equipment expired five-six years ago. If used, they could harm the patient and the hospital doctors have agreed upon that."
"The pathology lab was doing blood transfusion without permission. According to the Safe Blood Transfusion Rules, they were supposed to have the license. They were using human blood as blood culture medium while the medium was supposed to be sheep blood," said the RAB magistrate.
He said they did not seal off the medical facility as the health ministry extended the license renewal until August 23.
"Otherwise, we would have shut it down. We want the medical facilities to run following the rules and requirements. We will congratulate the medical owners who run their clinics according to the rules," he told the press.
The magistrate said, "We will not allow medical fraud or put public health at risk. Hospitals that will fail to renew by August 23 will face shutdown."
He was asked whether they were holding out an olive branch to the hospital considering the political identity of the owner. In reply, Sarwoer said all are equal before the law.
Though the Rapid Action Battalion shepherded drives to the hospital, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in a letter to the home ministry expressed concern, and said those drives should have health ministry permission beforehand.
The health minister also argued that measures on any clinics should not be dubbed as "drive", rather it should be "inquiry".
'Hospital shutdown is not our target'
Though the RAB magistrate spelled stern action against hospitals without a license, Health Services Division Joint Secretary Umme Salma Tanzia told the press that hospital shutdown was not their target.
She said, "We want welfare organisations to follow the rules properly and provide service by staying within the legal boundary."
Referring to a health ministry letter sent to the home ministry, she said the media got the message wrong.
"As a ministry representative, I want to clarify that we do not want the ongoing drives to stop. Media said such drive would stop, but you see it did not," she said.
She sought all-out help from journalists to overhaul the health division.
Tanzia said they found some irregularities at the hospital and therefore summoned the authorities.
When contacted, City Medical College Hospital Principal Dr Yunus Ali said the authorities are responsible for licenses and he refused to make further comment.